Budget cuts will affect Circuit Clerk

Published 11:06 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Statewide financial cuts to the state’s judicial system will have a “drastic” effect here in Crenshaw County, said Circuit Clerk Jeannie Gibson.

The Clerk’s office will suffer one layoff, reducing the staff to Gibson and two others.

“It’s going to slow down the processing that we do,” she said. “We’re trying to process anything with money first, but it will still be slowed down.”

Statewide, 253 court specialists will be laid off, according to a release from Charles Story, President of the Alabama Circuit Clerk’s Association and the Circuit Clerk of Chambers County.

“A dozen counties will be left with only two employees, an untenable situation if someone is out sick, at lunch, or needs to assist a judge in the courtroom,” Story said. “Years of training and experience in handling complex court matters are being removed from our offices.”

In 2010, the Circuit Clerk’s offices in Alabama’s 67 counties handled 1,247,871 cases and collected $385,262,712.

Gibson said that here in Crenshaw County, the case load has been increasing steadily.

“As of Aug. 1, we’ve had 4,100 traffic tickets,” she said. “We expect around 7,000 by the end of the year if the trend continues.”

Filing traffic tickets is just one part of the job performed by the Clerk’s office.

The Circuit Clerk’s duties also include the management of all court monies, personnel management, court planning and docketing, purchasing, inventory control, jury management, attending sessions of court, the issuance of all writs, summonses and subpoenas, absentee elections and passports in addition to being the custodian of all court records.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb recently issued an administrative order directing Clerks to close their offices up to 10 hours per week during normal business hours, however, Cobb resigned and was replaced by Gov. Robert Bentley’s former chief of staff Chuck Malone on Monday.

“We’re not going to make a decision about our hours or closing early yet,” Gibson said. “We’ll have to see how the new Chief Justice reacts and get used to the new administration.”

In the meantime, Gibson said that the duties around the Clerk’s office will be reassigned, and that she will also take over some of the filing responsibilities.

“Even one less person makes a difference when you’re answering the phone or helping someone at the desk,” Gibson said. “We’re going to do the best we can, but we ask the public to be patient.”