The County Clerk is one of several independent, elected positions provided for by the Washington State Constitution, with specific duties assigned by statute and local and state court rules. The position of County Clerk is best characterized as the administrative and financial officer of the Superior Court. The purpose of the office of County Clerk is to ensure the separation of powers among the three branches of government thereby preserving the integrity of the judiciary. Those three branches are Executive, Judicial and Legislative. This purpose is accomplished in three ways.
The Clerk is located in the Executive Branch of government and provides the avenue for external oversight of the judiciary without legislative or executive branch interference with its actions, integrity or independence.
By being independent of the judicial branch, the Clerk protects the judiciary from the appearance of impropriety or unfairness in the setting of cases, implementation of orders, or investment of funds.
As an independent elected official, the Clerk preserves for the public unfettered access to a fair, accurate, and independently established record of the opinions, decisions, and judgments of the court.
Specific Functions of the County Clerk
Administrator of court records and exhibits: All documents presented in a superior court cause of action must be received and processed by the Clerk. The processing of court documents involves record classification, assignment of cause number, computerized docketing and manual filing of hard copy records. Records must be maintained, retained and purged in accordance with statutory time constraints, and required archival standards.
Financial Officer for the Courts: As the court's agent, the Clerk collects statutory fees, fines, trust funds and support funds; maintains a trust account for monies received; receipts and disburses monies as ordered by the court; and provides an investment plan for monies held. The collection, accounting and investment of court monies are done to ensure that the interests of the public and the county are secured.
Quasi-judicial Officer: For the issuance of writs, subpoenas, and other court-related orders, the Clerk serves a quasi-judicial function, exercising discretion of a judicial nature.
Duties: Review court documents for possible errors; perform acts required by law; issue letters testamentary, warrants (civil and criminal) and writs of execution, garnishment, attachments, restitution and orders of sale.
Ex Officio Clerk of the Court: Under the Constitution of the State of Washington, the Clerk has the title of Ex officio clerk of the court. This requires the Clerk's presence at all court sessions for the purpose of receiving and recording court documents and exhibits; and to establish an independent record of court proceedings for the public.
Justice System Administrator: In this role, the Clerk identifies and articulates the changing needs of court record processing; of the storage, retrieval and disposal of documents, records and exhibits; and of the collection, accounting and investment of court monies to ensure that the interests of the public and the county are secured.
Departmental Administrator: As the administrator of a county department, the Clerk has the responsibility to establish office policies, budgets, and procedures in accordance with the established guidelines and policies of the Board of County Commissioners.
Accuracy and Efficiency
Accuracy and efficiency are critical in the Clerk's office, as even the slightest error or omission in indexing, posting, filing, preparation of writs or disbursements of funds affects the life or property of members of the public.
Operations and Workload
The Thurston County Clerk's Office serves the citizens of Thurston County and is responsible for the administrative and financial functions of Superior Court. In general, it provides the following support to the Thurston County Superior Court:
Receiving and processing all legal documents and exhibits filed in superior court cases, along with other records required by statute; filing, updating, maintaining and archiving court records; attending and making a record of all court hearings and trials; summoning and processing all superior court proceedings; entering all judgments and processing all appeals from court decisions; receipting and disbursing trust funds, support and restitution payments; providing assistance to victims of domestic violence; providing customers with mandatory forms packets in domestic relation case types; and collecting fees for filings and other services.
Operationally, the Thurston County Clerk's Office employs a staff of approximately 40 people in teams (Criminal, Civil, Juvenile and Family Law, Finance). Altogether the Clerk's Office is responsible for more than 7 million legal documents contained in over 350,000 case files.