The clerk of court is an office that has existed since the first rulers created institutions for the adjudication of crimes and disputes. Clerk's record the actions and the judgments of the court; transmit the orders of the court to the authorities responsible for their execution; and assume all other duties assigned by the presiding judge of a court. Known as "scribes" in the Bible, the office has a continuous tradition up to the present day and is the crucial link that "makes justice happen".
The structure of the clerk's office differs substantially from state to state and even by different levels of a state's judicial system. District clerks may be appointed by judges as in California, by professional court administrators as in Vermont, by the Governor as in Michigan, or elected by county voters as in Texas.
A Texas district clerk is a "constitutional officer of county government" found in Article 5 Section 9 of the state's constitution. The district clerk is the custodian of the "official record of the district courts" and must mark the exact date and time of receipt and issue all papers including subpoenas, citations, warrants, and summons.
Most court records are public information. The district clerk is responsible for managing those records such that they are easily retrieved for public information and preserved for permanent storage in archive or disposed of according to law.
The district clerk also collects and disburses court costs, fines and other fees. The clerk's office operates a "trust registry" where funds are deposited on behalf of minors until they are 18 and money that is being disputed in court. The district clerk also manages the Title IV-D child support enforcement courts and collects child support payments.
The District Clerk in most counties (not in Dallas County) manages all aspects of the juror summons and selection. The clerk may also operate a county passport office as in Dallas County.
The Dallas County District Clerk's office is the second largest in the state and the fourth largest department of Dallas County government. The annual budget is $13 million and the office employs more than 175 deputies.
The office has five locations throughout the county. The administrative office is located at the George Allen Courthouse and deputies provide direct service to the seventeen Civil courts, thirteen Family courts, the Tax court, the SAFEPF court and the Title IV-D courts. In addition, deputies operate the civil/family desk, the Trust and Accounting section and the downtown passport office.
The clerk also provides services to the seventeen Felony courts at the Frank Crowley Courthouse off of Riverside and Commerce. Deputies issue all criminal warrants and subpoenas, handle criminal indictments, writs of habeas corpus, criminal collections and bond forfeitures. In addition, deputies also provide a 24-hour service to the Magistrate court in the Lew Sterrett county jail.
There are two Juvenile District Courts housed at the Henry Wade Courthouse off of Interstate 30. Deputies provide services to those two courts and handle all collections for court costs, fines, fees and juvenile probation costs.
The clerk also manages two additional passport offices located at the county services building off of St. Francis and the North Dallas Government Center.
The services provided by the Dallas County District Clerk are completely different depending on the court family. Even within the same court family, individual courts may be managed in quite different ways. The office is governed by a complicated web of statutes and court rules, both local and state, as well as the unique needs of each of the forty-nine judges.
The demands of the office are challenging to even the most experienced managers. That is why re-electing Felicia is so important to ensure the work continues on building a 21st Century clerk's office.