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Circuit Court buildingHeader: Slug Line: Baby nearly born in Circuit Court building

May 30, 2003|By GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

No one, in recent memory, has given birth inside the Washington County Circuit Court building. But one woman came close Thursday morning.

"It's a girl," said Christine R. Moats, 29, of Hagerstown, Thursday afternoon.

Moats gave birth to Madison Marie Moats at 9:56 a.m. Thursday, about 15 minutes after she was taken to the hospital, and 35 minutes after an ambulance was called to the courthouse.

Reached by phone at Washington County Hospital Thursday afternoon, Moats said she began feeling contractions at 8:30 a.m., but was scheduled for a final hearing to dismiss an assault charge against her at 9:30 a.m.

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"I wanted to get (the hearing) taken care of. I wasn't leaving," Moats said.

Before long, her contractions were coming closer together.

Dennis Mummert, a court security officer, said Moats was sitting on a hall bench. "You could tell she was in pain," he said.

"People have faked seizures to get out of court, but I don't think she was faking," he said.

Emergency officials said a 911 call was placed from the courthouse at 9:21 a.m. Moats said she arrived at the hospital at 9:41 a.m.

About 15 minutes later, Moats gave birth to her sixth child.

Circuit Court officials said they could not remember any babies being born inside the courthouse, but there was at least one close call, as well as an adoption proceeding that continued despite a bomb threat.

Patti Allen, a criminal court clerk, said that on June 12, 1996, she was working in her office when she realized her baby's birth was near. Allen gave birth in the hospital 20 minutes later to her daughter, Skyler Allen.

"It was a little embarrassing," she said. "I wanted to go home and pack my bag," but her co-workers wouldn't let her.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III said he cannot remember anyone giving birth in the building during his 30 years on the bench. About 10 years ago, a bomb threat was called into the courthouse while he was in the middle of an adoption proceeding, he said.

The courthouse was evacuated.

"It was a nice day, a 75-degree day," he said, so he decided to hold the proceeding on the steps of a building across the street. "That was fun," Wright said.

Deanna Schleigh, a civil court clerk, is expecting a baby in July. She said she plans to be at the hospital, not in court, when the time comes.

Schleigh said Thursday's near delivery "just pushes me to be a little more prepared."

Moats said she doesn't have any special plans other than hoping to go home today. There will, however, be one more opportunity to visit the place her daughter was almost born.

At least notes made Thursday in Moats' computerized case file say so.

Moats' lawyer appeared in court Thursday, the notes say, without Moats: "She was in labor. Case continued: good cause found."

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