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March 8, 2013

Circuit clerk’s office to close to public 1 day per week

Order comes from chief justice as budget outlook dims

Circuit court clerk offices across the state will close to the public one day a week, beginning March 20.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued the administrative order this week as the state Legislature considers more potential tightening of the General Fund budget. Past cuts have already depleted the number of employees working in circuit clerk offices.

“The order is an effort to allow the staff to stay caught up with the paperwork they are required to do. The chief justice has asked that the Legislature adequately fund the judicial system, but it looks like we may lose more funding,” said Lisa McSwain, circuit clerk for Cullman County.

McSwain began serving as clerk this year and noted that the office has dropped from 19 to 10 employees in the last few years.

The office is responsible for a wide range of duties related to the circuit and district courts. Attorneys and judges file legal documents through the office, but that is only a portion of the workload, McSwain said.

Clerks collect fines, take affidavits and issue summons, subpoenas and writes, among other duties.

“We will still be at the office on Wednesdays, but the order will not allow public access. We will look at putting up a drop box for payments and we will be available for emergencies when the law enforcement agencies need us,” McSwain said.

McSwain said she has met with the local judges about the chief justice’s order.

“They understand our situation,” McSwain said. “We’re fortunate to have such a well-trained staff here. Everyone is giving 110 percent to keep up with the work.”

Moore noted in his order that the state’s Judicial Administrative Fund is likely to come in nearly $13 million below the anticipated projection for 2013. He also noted that the judiciary anticipates more than $3.5 million in mandated, yet unfunded costs in 2014 for increases to employees’ health care.

David Palmer may be contacted at dpalmer@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.

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