About the County Clerk
The County Clerk is part of the executive branch of government independent of the judiciary elected to represent the public as the administrative and financial officer of the Superior Court. The office is a highly technical one whose goal is to protect the integrity and accuracy of the Superior Court records and preserves for the public expeditious access to a fair, accurate and independently established record of opinions, decisions and judgments of the court. The Clerk has many specific and special responsibilities assigned by statute and court rules. Court actions processed by the Clerk include civil, domestic, probate, guardianship, adoption, criminal, paternity, mental (civil commitment), domestic violence, anti-harassment, appeals, case dismissals, juvenile offender, dependency and truancy proceedings. By statute the clerk represents the public in all court proceedings by appointing deputy court clerks to take accurate and complete minutes, administer oaths, manage exhibits, and draw and maintain jury panels.
The Clerk’s office serves in the center of court activity dealing with a large volume of daily contact with the public, businesses, attorneys and judges. Accuracy and efficiency are synonymous with office responsibilities to avoid liability to the county. Examples include: issuance of writs and warrants, entry of judgments, summon citizens for jury service, complete records management functions in area of court files, court reporter notes, audio/video tapes, depositions, exhibits and bench notes, docketing and calendaring functions, statistics of court activities, management of highly confidential court records and information, management and maintenance of clerks/court information network. Responsible for the financial management and accounting of all monies paid into and out of court. (Collections, child support, crime victims restitution, fines, fees, investments).
The clerk assures that all records are accurately kept and court transactions are performed in a timely manner in order to maintain the integrity of the judicial process. As clerk of the Superior Court, the county clerk must keep a record of all appearances, timely file and process all pleadings, attend and journalize proceedings held and in some instances, tape or digitally record those proceedings. An execution docket must be maintained to record judgments of the court. The clerk prepares monthly and yearly statistical reports.
As the financial officer of the court, the clerk collects statutory filing fees, service fees, sanctions, cash bonds, child support, legal financial obligations, and other court ordered payments. The clerk administers the financial records for the court, which include accounting records for all Superior Court cases, funds held in the clerk’s trust account, court and case level investments, and claims for federal and state grants. The clerk also enters Superior Court judgments, issues writs for execution, satisfies judgments, receives and disburses funds paid into the court, and manages the accounts receivable of the legal financial obligations.
In criminal cases, the clerk issues warrants of arrest and subpoenas for witnesses and sends copies of orders to the Sentencing Guidelines Commission, State Patrol, Department of Corrections, prosecutors, public defenders, sheriffs, jails and others. Notices are sent by the clerk regarding removal of rights to vote, possess a firearm and drivers licenses. In addition, the clerk registers all witnesses and is responsible for safeguarding all exhibits admitted at trial.
Domestic Relations, Civil Paternity
The clerk issues writs of garnishment and execution, warrants for failure to comply, and provides forms, court procedures and assistance to the public in domestic violence and anti-harassment cases. The clerk is responsible for transmitting certificates of dissolution and invalidity to the Department of Health in Olympia. Court rule requires that the clerk notify all litigants in cases which have been without action for one year that the cause of action may be dismissed for inactivity and dismisses those cases not in compliance.
The clerk keeps a record of wills and bonds, issues letters of testamentary and of administration or guardianship authorizing representatives to act on behalf of persons who are deceased or incapacitated. In probate, the clerk issues forms for the transfer of title to mobile homes and vehicles.
Adoption decrees and re-registration forms go directly from the clerk’s office to the Department of Health, with special provisions for Native American children.
Mental Illness / Alcohol & Drug Treatment / Adult & Juvenile
Responsibility lies with the clerk for processing and maintaining the confidential case files of involuntary commitment cases. The clerk sets hearings for intensive treatment proceedings, prepares court orders, and notifies witnesses, including mental health professionals.
The clerk maintains confidential court records pertaining to children who have been abandoned, abused or neglected, or who are in the custody of the court. The clerk is responsible for issuing summons and in cases of child abuse, notifying the State Patrol. The clerk works with schools and parents when children are truant or absent from school. Dependency cases also require the clerk to perform special duties with regard to shelter care and at risk youth matters.
Upon a charge filed by the prosecuting attorney in a situation involving a juvenile, the clerk must issue a summons and warrant of arrest. Juvenile cases are subject to numerous special statutes, but have the same requirements as adult cases where record keeping and exhibit control are concerned. The clerk is responsible for sealing juvenile court records and ensuring no information is provided without a court order.