Clerks keep courts at every level of the judicial system -- magistrate, state, appeals, federal and supreme courts -- operating smoothly. Their duties vary slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; in some localities, court clerk is an elected office. Educational requirements vary, with most districts requiring at least a high school diploma. Many clerks, though, have a bachelor's degree and most have significant administrative experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, court clerks had average annual wages of $36,850 as of May 2013.
Process Court Pleadings
Pleadings are documents, such as motions and briefs, that are filed with the court for a judge to review or a jury to hear. Clerks process these court documents when attorneys or people who are representing themselves file them. A clerk stamps the document, ensures it is delivered to the correct parties and creates a record of the filing. Clerks also review pleadings to ensure they're filed in the right court, and notify filers if the pleadings need to go somewhere else. Clerks also determine when hearings on court pleadings will be heard, giving them significant control over court scheduling. In many districts, clerks prepare and control the court docket.
Issue Court Documents
Court clerks issue documents that originate with the court, such as judicial orders and warrants, and send them to the proper parties, as dictated by the court's rules. Clerks also give out subpoenas, and some clerks send jury duty notifications. They also receive applications for documents such as marriage licenses, and issue them to people who provide the proper identification and fees.
Accept and Disburse Funds
As anyone who's ever gone to traffic court knows, courts receive fines every day. Court clerks accept payment for these fines and create a record that the money was received. Court clerks may also disburse court funds and issue refunds to people whose fines were overpaid. In some districts, clerks are charged with administering court funds, ensuring money gets to the right place and keeping a record of court finances.
Answer Public Questions
The court clerk often acts as an information officer, answering questions about the court, where to find particular courtrooms and how to file documents. Court clerks can't give legal advice, but they can direct court attendees to the proper place to have their questions answered. For example, a court clerk might refer an indigent person who wants to represent himself to a low-cost law clinic. Likewise, court clerks also notify attorneys and other officers of the court when they're missing documents or something has been filed incorrectly. If the sheriff's service of process for a lawsuit is returned to the court, for example, the court clerk will notify the attorney in the case.
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