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Dallas County District Clerk Functions of the Office And Information About Its Operations and Responsibilities: Bringing Greater Efficiencies and Superior.

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Presentation on theme: "Dallas County District Clerk Functions of the Office And Information About Its Operations and Responsibilities: Bringing Greater Efficiencies and Superior."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dallas County District Clerk Functions of the Office And Information About Its Operations and Responsibilities: Bringing Greater Efficiencies and Superior Customer Service Bringing Greater Efficiencies and Superior Customer Service to Citizens of Dallas County

2 Function of the District Clerk The office of district clerk is a little known but critical part of county government. Every divorce petition is filed through this office and every divorce decree is stored here, touching the lives of thousands of county residents each year. Evidence from criminal as well as civil files are maintained by the district clerk as well, making the office a repository of evidence for thousands of cases over the years.

3 Constitutional Provision for District Clerk The provision for a district clerk has been included in every Texas constitution since the inception of the Republic. Article 5, Section 9 of the Texas constitution provides that there shall be a district clerk in each county in the state of Texas. The functions have changed little, although the technology has, as courts move towards paperless filing and records are being scanned for computer storage and retrieval to improve the efficiency of the office and serve customers more effectively.

4 Office of the District Clerk The district clerk is an elected official who serves a four-year term. If the office becomes vacant, a district court judge appoints a new clerk, who holds office until it is filled in the next regularly scheduled election. Although the clerk works closely with each judge, all are independently elected officials who do not report to each other.

5 Office of the District Clerk In a Texas county with multiple district judges, such as Dallas County, a replacement for the district clerk is appointed by unanimous consent among all the judges, although the district clerk does not report to that body. In the event that judges cannot agree on a replacement, the Texas governor shall appoint a new district clerk for the county.

6 Duties of the District Clerk The district clerk provides support for the district courts in each county by placing a lead clerk and support clerk to handle records in cases in each court. The court administrator, appointed by the judge, has other duties, such as setting hearings.

7 Duties of the District Clerk The district clerk is custodian of all court pleadings and papers that are part of any cause of action, civil or criminal, in the district courts served by the clerk. However, depositions are the property of the court reporter in each court and are not under the purview of the district clerk.

8 Duties of the District Clerk The district clerk indexes and secures all court records, collects filing fees, and handles funds held in litigation as well as money awarded to minors. When money awarded to a minor in a civil case becomes due, it is dispensed by the district clerk’s trust department, where the money has been held since its award by a judge or jury.

9 Duties of the District Clerk The Texas constitution also provides that the district clerk in each Texas county shall be empowered to accept passport applications. This has been a particularly challenging role as new requirements have tripled the demand for passports for air and ground travel back and forth to and from Texas to Mexico, creating an unprecedented demand for process for applications and for Spanish-speaking agents working in the district clerk’s three passport locations.

10 The Current District Clerk The current Dallas County district clerk is Gary Fitzsimmons, who was sworn into office on January 1, Prior to his election, Mr. Fitzsimmons was a nonprofit administrator specializing in public parks and historic preservation, where he managed budgets and developed long-term strategies for those institutions. In his first two years, he has instigated major projects in digitizing court documents and also in scanning court records, two critical areas vital to streamlining overburdened courts and records management systems.

11 Past District Clerks Past district clerks include: Mr. Jim Hamlin, Mr. Bill Long, 1983 – 1997 Mr. T.E. Moore, (appointed) Mr. Bill Shaw, Ms. Pearl Smith, Mr. George Harwood,

12 History of the Office of the District Clerk Ms. Pearl Smith is the only woman elected as district clerk in Dallas, and the first woman deputy sheriff, and the first woman to be elected to a countywide office in Dallas County. She attempted to unseat George Harwood in 1934 and lost. In 1938, she formed numerous “Pearl Smith” Women’s clubs and won. She was sworn into office by Judge Sarah T. Hughes, who gained fame when she sworn in Lyndon B. Johnson as president aboard Air Force One in Dallas following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

13 History of the office of the District Clerk Another note-worthy district clerk was Benjamin Long, who elected in 1867 but was prevented from taking office by the Union army after refusing to take the ‘Iron-Clad’ oath. He was later shot to death in a bar-room brawl at the site of the Dallas County administration building, formerly the infamous Texas School Book Depository.

14 District Clerk’s Civil Court Responsibilities In the George Allen Courts Building, the district clerk’s office manages judicial process for 13 statutory civil district courts, two civil associate judges and one permanent visiting judge who presides over the tax court. These clerks are responsible for managing court case files and providing customer service to all litigants, whether they are Pro Se individuals or members of the legal community, to the best of their abilities.

15 Additional District Clerk Civil Court Responsibilities The 13 civil courts located in the George Allen Courts Building are supported by 29 deputy district clerks and 11 deputy clerks, some of whom are assigned to support the tax court. All clerks are trained and reviewed on an annual basis, assuring their ability to provide the highest level of service to the courts they support.

16 Cases Submitted at the District Clerk Civil Desk A Snap-Shot of District Civil Cases Filed 12/06 to 11/07 A total of almost 25,000 new cases in one year 1,772Injury/damages involving motor vehicle 54Workers compensation 3,381Tax cases 4,783Contracts, accounts & notes 18Reciprocals 14,921Other civil cases

17 District Clerk’ Family Courts The district clerk’s office also manages the judicial process for the seven statutory family district courts, all located in the George Allen Courts Building. In addition, it provides services to seven family associate judges, four IV-D (child support) courts and the guardian ad litem (GAL) program established to manage child support distribution

18 District Clerk Family Court Support The seven family courts have 18 clerks assigned to support them with 13 clerks assigned to support the IV-D courts, which operate in support of cases brought by the state’s attorney general, primarily for the purpose of enforcing child support. The seven family courts have 18 clerks assigned to support them with 13 clerks assigned to support the IV-D courts, which operate in support of cases brought by the state’s attorney general, primarily for the purpose of enforcing child support.

19 District Clerk Family Cases Filed A Snap-shot of District Family Cases Filed 12/06 to 11/07 50,772 total dispositions 46,206 pending cases carried forward 12, 296Divorces 22,890Other family cases 11,000 (est.)IV-D cases

20 District Clerk Juvenile Court Responsibilities The District Clerk’s office manages judicial process for the two statutory juvenile courts located in the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center. In addition, it provides services to two juvenile associate judges, and unlike operations in Civil and Family Courts, juvenile clerks collect fines and fees associated with juvenile cases.

21 District Clerk Juvenile Operations The two juvenile courts are supported by six deputy district clerks while 14 deputy clerks are assigned to support juvenile case records, collections and process. All of these clerks and their manager work in the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center.

22 District Clerk Juvenile Operations District Juvenile Cases Filed 12/06 to 11/07 11,182 including probation revocation 7,268 pending cases carried forward JUVENILE DISPOSITIONS: CINSDELINTOTAL Under parental care221,9161,938 Under foster care12627 Residential facility Committed to TYC16061 (Texas Youth Commission)

23 District Clerk Criminal Courts Operations The District Clerk’s office manages judicial process for the 18 felony courts located in the Frank Crowley Courts Building. In addition, it provides 24-hour services to the magistrate court located at Lew Sterrett Justice Center, processing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting arraignment.

24 District Clerk Criminal Courts Operations The criminal section of the district clerk’s office also provides criminal process services, criminal fine and court cost collections, indictment and appeals process, and manages bond forfeitures, requiring a different skills set from those clerks who work in the civil and family courts.

25 District Clerk Criminal Courts Operations The 18 criminal courts are supported by 38 deputy district clerks while 12 deputy clerks are assigned to the magistrate court and work 24-hour shifts to ensure that book-in of arrested suspects goes as smoothly as possible, so cases may move to the next stage of the criminal judicial process.

26 District Clerk Criminal Courts Operations There are 14 deputy clerks assigned to the criminal process section including those who handle indictments, expunctions, appeals and bond forfeitures, while six deputy clerks are assigned to oversee criminal collections and two clerks who manage protective orders exclusively.

27 District Clerk Criminal Court Operations In addition to the support of the magistrate and felony courts, collections, expunction and protective orders, the district clerk is also charged with the duty of managing criminal trial court evidence. One clerk, called the criminal evidence registrar, is assigned to manage the retention of more than 25 years of evidence, including hundreds of weapons and other non-paper evidence.

28 District Clerk Criminal Court Operations 105 capital murder 153 murder 3,157 assault 153 sex assaults/adult 120 sex assaults/juv 1,755 robbery 2,591 burglary 3,629 theft 774 auto theft 105 arson 10,438 drug sales 711 drug possession 755 felony DWI 8,558 various felonies A Snap-Shot of Felony Cases Filed from 12/06 to 11/07 32,851 new cases

29 District Clerk Trust and Accounting Operations Each district and county clerk must maintain a registry of the court to receive payments ordered tendered into the court’s registry ordered by various judges to be held in the court’s registry for the benefit of whomever it is ultimately adjudged to belong, including accident victims, minors and others whose money the district clerk protects.

30 District Clerk Trust and Accounting Operations The funds held in the registry of court do not belong to the county; rather, they are essentially held in trust by the clerk to satisfy the result of a legal pleading or to await the outcome of a legal proceeding.

31 District Clerk Trust and Accounting Responsibilities Although the funds in the registry of court are construed as trust funds, the clerk acts only in a custodial capacity in relation to funds held in the registry of court. A clerk is not a trustee for the beneficial owner and does not assume the duties, obligations, or liabilities of a trustee for a beneficial owner.

32 District Clerk Trust and Accounting Responsibilities District Clerk Trust and Accounting Responsibilities Funds in the Registry of the Court Presently, $43,299,339 total funds are under the custodial care of the district clerk 90% of all funds are minor trust funds 10% of funds are interpleader fees $33,299,339 funds are currently in investment accounts $10,000,000 approximately in funds are cash accounts

33 District Clerk Trust and Accounting Functions Registry of the Court Policy Changes In the currently volatile economic environment, the current district clerk has directed that funds currently deposited with over 40 different financial institutions are to be consolidated into two different public investment pools except where the rate of return justifies continued investment.

34 District Clerk Trust and Accounting Functions Investment Pools Government Investment Pool (GIP), or Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP), is a state or local government pool offered to public entities for the investment of public funds. These pools are important investments tools, offering safety with a competitive yield. GIP managers are vested with a public trust that the pool will maintain liquidity, diversity, and follow the investment pool’s guidelines.

35 District Clerk Records Local Government Records Act Chapters requires that all district clerks establish programs for the efficient and cost-effective management of the records of their offices. It also requires that the records of the office of district clerk be retained for minimum periods of time set by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission before they are eligible for disposal. This means that the district clerk has responsibility for more than one million records in storage from civil, family, juvenile and criminal courts records.

36 District Clerk Records Any information created or received by a district clerk pursuant to law or in the transaction of public business is a local government record, regardless of whether it is a document, paper, letter, book, map, photograph, sound or video recording, microfilm, magnetic tape, electronic medium, or any other type of information recording medium and regardless of whether it is an open or closed record.

37 District Clerk Records Court records in the custody of the district clerk are not subject to the provisions of the Public Information Act (PIA). Access to court records are governed by Rule 12 of the Texas Rules of Judicial Procedure.

38 District Clerk Records Rule 12 stipulates that the purpose of the rule is to provide public access to information in the judiciary consistent with the mandates of the Texas Constitution that the public interests are best served by open courts and by an independent judiciary. The rule should be liberally construed to achieve its purpose.

39 District Clerk Records Management and administrative memos, notes, documents, , correspondence and other budget materials are all public record and covered by the PIA.

40 District Clerk Records The District Clerk Records department manages case files on site and at the Dallas County records warehouse. Civil paper records from 2002 to present – 60,00 Civil microfilm records from 1979 to 1994 – 150,000 Family paper records from 1995 to present – 260,000

41 District Clerk Records The District Clerk’s Records department employs 43 deputies who manage civil, family and criminal records. In addition, 13 deputies are currently assigned to the records imaging project in which records are being scanned for more efficient storage and retrieval, providing cost- saving in storage, and a higher level of customer service.

42 District Clerk Passports Functions 2007 Accomplishments After a period of activity in which most passport applicants were applying for document to travel for business or vacation to primarily European travel, the past few years have seen a dramatic transformation in the number of Hispanic travelers following new US guidelines for ground and air travel into and out of Latin American countries. During the past few years, the District Clerk’s Passports locations have: After a period of activity in which most passport applicants were applying for document to travel for business or vacation to primarily European travel, the past few years have seen a dramatic transformation in the number of Hispanic travelers following new US guidelines for ground and air travel into and out of Latin American countries. During the past few years, the District Clerk’s Passports locations have: Handled 260% increase in new applicants with existing staff Handled 260% increase in new applicants with existing staff Received “Best of Dallas” award for Best Public office in Dallas Received “Best of Dallas” award for Best Public office in Dallas Opened East Dallas office an additional day, from three to four Opened East Dallas office an additional day, from three to four Added bilingual staff to North and East Dallas offices Added bilingual staff to North and East Dallas offices

43 District Clerk Passports Handles Record Number of Applications Due to New Government Requirements

44 District Clerk Passports Goals Open all three offices five days a week Open all three offices five days a week Open at least one office on Saturday Open at least one office on Saturday Accept credit card payments Accept credit card payments Add bilingual staff to Downtown office Add bilingual staff to Downtown office Upgrade computers and printers Upgrade computers and printers

45 Civil and Family Digital Courts Project Goals Complete Family Courts imaging project so all documents are stored on computers, enhancing efficiency of case management. Complete Family Courts imaging project so all documents are stored on computers, enhancing efficiency of case management. Commence Civil/Tax Courts Imaging project so majority of civil cases filed by firms can be submitted by Texasonline, providing superior customer service. Commence Civil/Tax Courts Imaging project so majority of civil cases filed by firms can be submitted by Texasonline, providing superior customer service. Integrate Texasonline E-filing with Odyssey Case Management system to streamline case management internally and externally. Integrate Texasonline E-filing with Odyssey Case Management system to streamline case management internally and externally. Provide downloadable civil and family filing forms and instructions on the District Clerk website to support more efficient filing procedures for Pro Se's and attorneys. Provide downloadable civil and family filing forms and instructions on the District Clerk website to support more efficient filing procedures for Pro Se's and attorneys. Support the development of Information Technology plan for Juvenile Courts to provide those courts the same efficiencies as civil and family courts. Support the development of Information Technology plan for Juvenile Courts to provide those courts the same efficiencies as civil and family courts. Support implementation of Juvenile Case Management system. Support implementation of Juvenile Case Management system.

46 Office of the District Clerk Locations SEE LOCATION MAPS AT George Allen Courts Building 600 Commerce Street at Market Civil/Family Filing Desk (first floor) open 8 am to 6 pm Other departments open 8 am – 4:30 pm Frank Crowley Courthouse 133 N. Industrial at West Commerce Offices open 8 am – 4:30 pm Clerks office closed noon – 1 pm for lunch Henry Wade Juvenile Center 2600 Lone Star Dr. off I-35 Office open 8 am – 4:30 pm Closed noon – 1 pm for lunch

47 Office of the District Clerk Locations SEE LOCATION MAPS AT Passport Office Downtown George Allen Courts Building 600 Commerce St. at Market Street 8:30 am – 4 pm Monday-Friday East Dallas Government Center 3443 St. Francis off I-30 7:30 am – 4:30 pm Monday-Thursday North Dallas Government Center Marsh Lane, Suite 137 north of Walnut Hill 7:30 am – 4:30 pm Tuesday-Friday


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