Circuit Clerk’s office cutting hours

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Covington County Circuit Clerk Roger Powell said it’s too soon to know how he will implement Tues-day’s order by Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb to reduce the hours of public operations at the state’s circuit clerk’s offices by up to 10 hours per week.

At an Andal-usia Lion’s Club meeting last week, District Judge Trippy McG-uire annou-nced the clerk’s office would lose an additional two staff members come Oct. 1. It’s a situation that will be mirrored at circuit clerk’s offices throughout the state, when another 250-plus additional employees statewide will lose their jobs because of the lack of funding. The reduction of staff will reduce overall staffing in offices to approximately 40 to 45 percent of recommended levels.

Cobb said her decision to close offices to public business is necessary.

“A great deal of essential work done by employees is performed or accomplished when they are not engaged with the general public or attorneys who have come to the office to transact court business,” Cobb said in a statement. “The state’s court system is in crisis, and without some provision for this essential work to be accomplished in the clerks’ offices with a staffing level that is less than half of what is required, those offices will not be able to adequately and timely perform their constitutional duties.”

Employees in the clerks’ office – who process, store and distribute all court filings, orders and other paperwork filed in Circuit, District and Family courts – will continue to work full-time, despite the reduced hours the offices will be open to the public.

In Tuesday’s order, Cobb directed clerks to give notice of their closure to the general public during the week of Aug. 1.

Powell said he hopes to have made a decision by Aug. 3.

“I am reviewing the Chief Justice’s administrative order and making a determination how best to implement it considering the impact upon the public, the court system and the employees of the clerk’s office,” Powell said.

Cobb has instructed circuit clerks’ offices to start their new practice 14 days after informing the Administrative Office of Courts of their closure plan.

She has instructed that some means of receiving, recording and documenting time-sensitive filings, pleadings and documents be installed for use during the closed time.

Special arrangements will be made to address the need for emergency matters such as arrest and search warrants, protection from abuse petitions, temporary restraint orders, etc. during that time when the office is closed.