Clerk’s office closed today

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Today will mark the first full Wednesday the Covington County Circuit Clerk’s Office is closed to the public.

Hopefully, it will also be the last, said Circuit Clerk Amy Jones Tuesday.

Earlier this month and citing funding shortfalls, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order directing circuit clerk offices in Alabama to be closed to the public on Wednesdays beginning March 20. An option was given to presiding circuit judges to ask for an exemption to the closure – which is exactly Judge Ashley McKathan did, Jones said.

“We wrote letters, asking that our office be allowed to stay open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so that we would be in compliance with the eight hour closure,” Jones said. “It was Judge McKathan’s suggestion, and a good one, too.

“When residents have to drive 30 minutes from one side of the county or the other only to arrive and find out we’re closed, that’s not service,” she said. “We felt we could best serve our residents by being open five-days-a-week, and this proposal would let us do that.”

Jones said the office hasn’t received word about if the exemption’s approval.

Currently, the clerk’s office closes at 3 p.m. on Thursdays in response to a July 2011 order issued by then-Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb which allowed circuit clerk office closings in “response to significant but less dire under-funding during her administration.”

The order also calls for a drop-box the public can use to accommodate time-sensitive filings, which is already in place locally for the Thursday, and now Wednesday, closings.

Moore said in his order that state funding for courts was cut $25 million for fiscal 2013 and an expected offset appears to be about $13 million short for the current year and beyond.

The chief justice, who was elected in November, also said in the order that the expected appropriation for the court system for fiscal 2014 will be $16.5 million “less than needed.”