Cumberland County, Kentucky Circuit Court Clerk's Office
Large clerk's offices are typically divided according to case type. One section may handle civil cases exclusively while another handles only criminal, or probate, or juvenile. Larger courts require greater and greater specialization, such as the distinction between general civil and small claims cases or between misdemeanor and felony cases.
The other form of organization consists of teams of clerks who process cases as a group, such as all cases assigned to a particular judge or court division. Each team handles all case-processing activities associated with a particular group of cases, including indexing, docketing, and filing. With this approach, the office should be designed with clusters of office staff.
The main counter operations of case initiation, fee receipting, file folder preparation, indexing, and docketing are nearly always done in the main clerk's office. Case scheduling and calendaring may be done either in the clerk's office or in the judge's offices. The in-court clerks, often referred to as minute clerks, may be located in the judge's office, clerk's office, a central pool, or remain in the courtroom.
Automated case management systems and electronic case files are changing how clerks process cases and organize. Many deputy clerks can work on the same case from many different locations at the same time. Paper files no longer have to move from desk to desk to have different clerks update or perform separate tasks.
For more information about the variety duties and responsibilities of the Clerk of Court and how these impact space planning, see Clerk's Office Functional Spaces.
The clerk's office should convey an image of order and efficiency; each office should promote the smooth and efficient flow of work. Office layout and workstation arrangements should be flexible and facilitate the efficient flow of case records. General design principles:
- Public-queuing space leading to public counters should have adequate space to accommodate the public.
- A file-viewing area should be provided adjacent to the public counter for attorneys and the public to view paper and electronic case files.
- Open office workstations for deputy clerks work best.
- The records-filing and storage areas should be centrally located and secure and easily accessible by deputy clerks.
- Active case files should be stored close to the staff work areas or public counter.
- The clerk's or supervising clerk's private office should be located where the clerk may view the staff work areas and public counters.
The number of staff may range from one or two in small rural courts to well over 1,000 employees in large urban courts. In small offices, each person normally performs several different tasks or handles several types of cases, while in the larger offices, greater specialization is necessary. Spaces required to support the Clerk of Court functions include:
- Public queuing and waiting area
- Public transactions counter with public access computer terminals
- Public counter workstations
- Cashier's station
- Records viewing area
- Open office workstations
- Private offices for the Clerk, chief deputy clerks, supervisors, and bookkeeper
- Active records storage area
- Inactive records storage area
- Evidence storage room
- Copier and workrooms
- Microfilm/Imaging space
- Supply and equipment storage rooms
- Computer server room
- Mail room
- Staff rest rooms and break area
The appearance of the work environment is an important consideration in designing the clerk's office. Because many clerical staff work overtime, or during a second or night shift, lighting and HVAC should be controlled from within the clerk's office.
The clerk's office should be located on one of the lower floors near the building's main public entrance to promote ease of public access and reduce traffic congestion in other areas of the building. In multi-story facilities, this will divert a large volume of public traffic from the elevator core and upper court floors. Public access areas within the office include the reception and waiting areas, public transaction counters, public viewing room, and the records storage areas housing land records, liens, and judgments.
Appropriate separation should be maintained between the public and staff. Clerk staff should have access to private circulation to move between offices and the judges' chambers and courtrooms. Staff-only areas include court records storage areas, the exhibit room, computer equipment room, supply storage room, copy areas, cashier workstations, and all behind-the-counter work areas.
The clerk's office should be near the building's main public entrance. This is especially true for high volume limited jurisdiction courts with traffic or misdemeanor jurisdiction.
Directories and floor diagrams should be posted at prominent locations throughout the building. Office signs and instructions should be clearly visible and understandable.
In addition to public accessibility, the office should also have access to "staff-only" areas of the building. Through a card or key entry system, staff can use private circulation routes to the courtrooms and other restricted areas of the building without entering the public circulation zones.
The clerk's office should have adequate security. The office should have secure cashier positions with duress alarms linked to the central security station. Typically there should be some type of barrier between the deputy clerks serving the public and the public, such as a teller type window with security glazing. If there are no security glazing the counter should be wide enough to prevent someone from reaching across to grab a deputy clerk. All public counter locations should have duress alarms and be under video surveillance.
Clerk's offices responsible for storing evidence should have secure, fireproof storage areas or vaults.
Court clerks should have private access to the courtrooms through private elevators or stairwells. This separate circulation path will increase security and facilitate efficiency. A greater level of security can be achieved by monitoring the counter and cashier with a closed-circuit security video cameras.
Most clerk operations function well in an open office environment. Staff can generally be accommodated in cubicle or counter work stations. Some private offices may be needed for personnel who must supervise staff or receive visitors.
The furnishings in these offices may be of standard office equipment.
Filing systems should be efficient and easily accessible. Open shelf lateral files are recommended for most paper files because they hold more per square foot of floor space and provide greater ease in shelving and re-shelving case files.
All areas of the office should be accessible to persons with disabilities. Particular attention should be given to designing at least one counter position to accommodate a staff person or customer with a disability. Chairs or benches should be provided in the public waiting and queuing area for the elderly or mobility-impaired individuals.
It should be assumed that every work station, or office, will require a computer workstation with video display monitor(s), a printer, and document scanner. Many workstations will require dual monitors. Other devices that may need to be accommodated include telephone, phone chargers, battery chargers, and computer tablets. Each workstation will require a minimum of two quadriplex electrical outlets and one dedicated computer power receptacle, two data jacks and one phone jack (3 CAT6 lines). Specialized workstations may require additional electrical outlets. Because of the heat generated by electrical equipment, steps should be taken to ensure that equipment is cooled. Plans should include room for considerable growth in electrical demand.