State order affects Circuit Clerk’s hours

Published 10:08 am Thursday, March 14, 2013

Listing budget and personnel shortfalls, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore has directed that all circuit and district court clerks offices in all judicial circuit of the state, including Lowndes County, be closed to the general public on Wednesdays, beginning March 20, in order to perform their constitutional duties.

“A great deal of essential work in the Circuit Clerks’ offices must be done when employees are not serving the general public,” More said in an administrative order. And without some provision for the work to be done, “Clerks will not be able to adequately and timely perform their constitutional duties,” he said.

Lowndes County Circuit Court Clerk Ruby Jones-Thomas said she could not say if the Wednesday closings to the public is good or bad, “But I do know that we can definitely get some things done by being able to close,” she said.

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Thomas said most of the other counties in the state have been closing for about two hours per day up to 10 hours a week for a couple of years, “and we’ve never closed.”

Moore pointed out that the judicial branch has lost 498 employees since 2001 “most prominently in the court clerk’s offices and the juvenile probation offices.”

He pointed out there is a $25 million reduction in the fiscal year 2013 Judicial System General Fund Budget based on a fund that appears likely to generate about $13 million less than anticipated.

He also noted more than $3.5 million in mandated and unfunded fiscal year 2014 costs and a proposed General Fund appropriation for that year at least $16.5 million less than needed.

More said drop boxes will be established for receiving, recording and documenting receipt of time-sensitive filing, pleadings and documents and that provision will be made to process true emergency matters.

According to Moore, “notwithstanding the closing of a clerk’s office to the general public” the office staffs will continue begin and end their work days at the usual time and perform all duties and tasks required.

More said budget shortfalls required the “extraordinary measures.”