The Clerk is a PUBLIC OFFICER, meaning a person in the service of the government and the people, who derives his/her position from a legally authorized election and whose duties are continuous in nature and defined by statutes prescribed by government. As an elected official, the Clerk must be responsive to the constituency being represented. The very nature of the office and the extent of services being provided mandates that the Clerk’s actions and decisions be constantly subjected to public evaluation.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court is characterized as one whose duties are not purely ministerial, but rather an integral part of the entire county governmental process. As an officer of the court, the Clerk is endowed with certain authority to aid and promote the judicial process. Additionally, the Clerk’s authority as an elected county officer with responsibilities as auditor and custodian of all county funds allows the Clerk to provide a check and balance function on behalf of local government and the citizens of Suwannee County.
The origins of the Clerk’s Office extend into early English history. In times past, the custody of court records was entrusted to one of the judges. However, it soon became apparent that the judge alone was unable to preside over the argument, record the proceedings and issue writs. Consequently, the Office of the Clerk of Courts was created. Subordinate judicial officials were chosen from among the clergy, the only literate group at the time. Thus, the name clerk is derived from the Latin clericus meaning clergyman. In the English colonies, officers of the common pleas courts were known as county clerks, a title utilized in most states today.
The functions and duties of clerks vary from state to state. In most jurisdictions, the Clerk is generally vested with a large number of administrative duties. In Florida, the Clerk of the Circuit Court is a constitutional officer created by Article V, Section 16, of the Constitution of the State of Florida. The Clerk is not only Clerk of the Circuit Court, but also the County Treasurer, Recorder, Auditor, Finance Officer and ex-officio Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners.
In a study done by the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Personnel of the Florida Legislature some time ago, it was calculated that the Clerk’s Office performs numerous different tasks. Since then, these tasks have continued to grow with changes in legislation, regulations, and reporting requirements. Some of the more significant duties of the Clerk are summarized in the following section.
General Responsibilities of Florida Clerks of the Circuit Courts
1. Duties as a Member of the Court:
A. Attend each session of court
B. File indictments, information and verdicts
C. Process all civil and criminal cases
D. Prepare records to the court of appeals
E. Oversee jury selection
F. Receive payments for fines, court costs, child support, alimony and victim restitution
G. Disburse judicial funds
H. Supervise the processing of fines and forfeitures
I. Conduct real property foreclosure sales
J. Receive and audit guardianship annual reports
K. Issue marriage licenses.
2. Duties as County Recorder:
A. Process tax deed applications and conduct sales
B. Record and index deeds, mortgages and descriptions of all county property
C. Record all tax liens and claims against estates, instruments of conveyance, agreements, contracts, maps and plats of subdivisions and surveys
D. Maintain public microfilm libraries and a records storage facility
E. Process passports
F. Administer records management services for all County offices.
3. Duties as ex-officio Clerk and Accountant to the Board of County Commissioners
A. Attend all meetings of the Board of County Commissioners and committees of the Board as directed
B. Produce, record, index and distribute the official minutes of those meetings
C. Maintain legal custody of the Official County Seal
D. Serve as custodian of all County resolutions, ordinances and contracts
E. Process appeals before the Value Adjustment Board.
4. Duties as Custodian of County Funds and County Auditor:
A. Provide accounting services to all County Departments
B. Provide accounting treatment for all fiscal changes
C. Assume responsibility for the investment of available County funds
D. Provide financial reporting to the Board and all federal and state agencies
E. Process accounts payable
F. Audit all County expenditures
G. Process the County payroll
H. Review County government management and accounting controls