Quirky things about the clerk’s office

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From the Circuit Clerk by Paulita Keith

 In year one, I have discovered there are many misconceptions or misunderstandings about the clerk’s office.  Some of the most prevalent will be discussed in this article.

Driver’s License Middle Name:  My middle name isn’t McG my aunt told me after renewing her driver’s license.  She is not the only one who has experienced the 3 letter middle name that is not the driver’s legal name. 

She, unlike others, did not particularly care one way or the other as long as there was no legal issue. 

This is a quirk our driver’s license division deals with on a daily basis. 

Some people really don’t care. 

Others are extremely upset that what is printing is not accurate. 

This quirk is actually a result of a computer glitch back in the early 1990s.  It was never noticed or caught before since the old driver license issuance system only printed the middle initial on the license.  Now that improvements have been made to the new digital driver licensing system, the entire middle name should print on the card. 

However, if a driver was part of the 1990 something glitch, the new driver’s license is only going to show the first 3 initials of the middle name. 

Unfortunately, this is not something that can be quickly “fixed” in the system.  Since it becomes a “name change”, the driver must provide proof of legal name such as a birth certificate or court order. 

A social security card is not acceptable as proof but must be provided in order to verify the social security name is the same as the driver’s license name.

Driver’s License Legal Name:  Another fact the general public may not know is your driver’s license must be in your legal name.

It cannot be issued under a nickname. 

It cannot be issued as a spouse, example “Mrs. John Doe” (and yes, we have been asked to do this).  

There Must be Documentation:  There is really no instance in the clerk’s office where we can accept your word for it. 

The clerk’s office is the gatekeeper to the legal system. 

If you have moved, you must provide proof of your new address (lease, copy of a current utility bill, copy of a mortgage document which contains the street address, copy of the property tax bill, etc…)

If you are posting bond for someone, you must provide a copy of your driver’s license.  If you are picking up a check, whether it is from a restitution payment, bond assignment or other circumstance, you must provide a copy of your driver’s license.  Even if one of the clerks has known you for years, a paper trail must be provided.

We are not allowed to give you legal advice.  The clerk’s office is staffed by clerks, not attorneys. 

Across the state of Kentucky, more and more litigants are choosing to represent themselves. 

As a result of this trend, we receive an enormous amount of legal questions.

Clerks are allowed to give legal information but are not allowed to give legal advice. 

Legal information is considered to be facts about the law and legal process. 

Legal advice is advice about the course of action a client should take to further his/her own best interests. 

We can answer questions calling for factual information such as questions that start with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” or “how”. 

We cannot answer questions that call for an opinion. 

We can tell a litigant how to bring an issue to the attention of the court but cannot suggest whether it is wise to do so, how best to present the issue or how the judge is likely to decide.  We can provide a litigant with copies of AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) forms or direct them to the Kentucky Court of Justice website to obtain forms but cannot assist them with completing the forms. 

We can advise a litigant to access the Kentucky Court of Justice website for “local rules” but cannot interpret the local rules for them.  

We cannot talk to the judge for a litigant, cannot let the litigant talk to the judge, cannot change an order signed by a judge, cannot interpret what a judge meant and cannot provide attorney referrals. 

Regardless of how much experience a clerk has, we are never allowed to practice law.  

We cannot just take your payment.  As strange as it may seem, we cannot just accept a payment and issue a receipt.  Each payment received is required to be applied to a specific case for specific items.

Unfortunately, costs and fines have subcategories to which the money must be assigned. 

There is also a specific order as to how payments are to be applied as set forth by the state and/or each individual judge.  Therefore, each payment received requires that records be analyzed to determine the correct appropriation of the monies. 

In 2014, the clerk’s office will implement a new computerized accounts receivable system. 

Until that time, most of the accounting process is manual and requires the clerks to review records, files and prior receipts.

Records are not immediately online.  The clerk’s office is still a paper society.  All documents are submitted in paper format. 

Until each document is manually entered into the system, the information is not available to the clerks working the windows. 

Many times, once defendants finish in the courtroom, they immediately come to our office to make payments or request documents. 

Until the clerk, who is in the courtroom, gets back to our office with all of the files, dockets, judge’s orders, etc…., our office will not have the most up-to-date information. 

Once the court clerk gets back from the court, all information must be properly processed through the system (documentation entered into the computer, copies made and distributed, etc.). 

Information is to be processed on a first in first out method meaning information is processed in the order in which it is received.

Voicemail is a necessity. Currently with the number of staff we are allowed to employ, the number of courts we must cover, the number of division windows we must staff and the upcoming computerization of the accounting records, we do not have enough staff to actually have a “real live person” answer our phones. 

We have shortened our prompt system to try to make the voicemail less “painful”.  

When you dial the clerk’s office, you will be instructed to dial:  2 for jury information; 3 for circuit court; 4 for district court (including traffic citations); 5 for bookkeeping; 6 for juvenile; and 7 for driver’s license. 

These prompts can be dialed at any time during the initial message or after the message to reach your destination.

As always, it is our goal to provide friendly efficient service to the public. 

Unfortunately, sometimes our hands are tied due to the parameters in which we must operate.

We are always looking for ways to streamline our processes and make your experience with the clerk’s office the best it can possibly be. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our office.  You may reach us at 502-543-7104 or 502-955-7512.  My personal extension is 1000.