Clerk of courts offices face major budget cuts
If you have to report for jury duty, file for foreclosure, or are in the middle of a divorce, brace yourself: it's going to be a long ride. Clerk of courts offices statewide are facing $31 million in budget cuts, which will inevitably affect their services. Court clerks statewide held an emergency session at Tampa's Mariott Waterside to figure out how to cope with the cuts. A News Channel 8 crew tried to attend the meeting but they were kicked out, as the court clerks wanted to discuss their funding troubles in private.Speaking later, some clerks wondered how they will function, and if the cuts were even legal. It means all the paperwork involving foreclosures, fines in unpaid child support, divorces and any other civil matter will likely take longer to process. Priority will be given to criminal cases. In Pasco County, an $825,000 cut means 19 employees will be laid off, or the clerk's office will close for 15 days. "It's not like we're Walmart, you can't go anywhere to do your services," said Pasco Clerk of Court Paula O'Neil. "We're a one stop location. It's not like they can go wherever and get their problems taken care of." The more than $2 million slash to the court system in Hillsborough County could mean up to 42 jobs lost. Court clerks are trying to find ways to spare employees, including eliminating vacancies and shortening office hours, while protecting the integrity of the records, which will be tough. "If we make a mistake because someone is hurrying too much," O'Neil said, "someone is going to go to jail who shouldn't go to jail, or someone is not going to jail, who should go to jail."