Very few people actually know what the Clerk of Court does, what information should voters know about this office in order to cast an informed vote?
I think most people have no idea what Clerk of Court does. And they don’t know who the current Clerk of Court is or who served before her or what the history of the job is. There’s a Clerk of Court for Superior Court as well as the Appellate right on up to U.S. Supreme Court. The Clerk of Court here in North Carolina for Wake County is an elected position and essentially I guess the two primary things that I’m expecting is, and I have some other interests, the primary things I’m expecting is the file system for the court records.
The second one is when you’re filing motions and you come in and you clock it in, I guess that’s towards the same function but they also provide Clerks for each courtroom. So each courtroom is busy all the time. It’s like an airline. You got a Clerk assigned to that courtroom. They’re most times recording audio. In the new building supposedly everything is video and audio, in the old building only two rooms were audio/video. Then they broke the video for about 10 years and now it’s only audio. You have to ask for it. That’s a function I think that people really benefit from.
Let me drift a little differently, the overview for when you show up for say anything you violate or didn’t violate, say a traffic citation or something bigger, or maybe somebody’s unhappy with you or whatever you’re looking for. You know, the process is posted on the electronic system to tell you what courtroom you’re in, what date and time, the functioning IT pieces of that, information technology, management piece, drifts into that so I guess I’ll add that as a third. Major files for cases that where you appeal them say, general filing, and general management of the courtroom itself.
Tell us about your experiences and why they would help you as Clerk of Court.
I’m sitting here as a Professional Engineer which is a P.E. Most people haven’t got any idea what that is, they think its Physical Education. The Professional Engineer is an approach to a problem. It can be legal, it can be, from the engineering approach and everyone is different on how they set up the problem. The engineer perspective, I think that it adds a level of solution. Everything doesn’t have to push itself, or resolve itself into legal matters.
You know I choose to go to the bathroom and I don’t look for some policy on how often or where. Nowadays, we’re getting there. But, I think I bring the approach to the solution where a person can come in and think there only answer is to sue and ask for some guidance one way or another. I remember one of the court cases I sat in on, maybe seven years ago, but a roof failed, it was at the North Carolina Supreme Court, and there were seven of them and they were talking about the case. The roof fell down and the guy didn’t mean to do it; it was an old building. Who should pay for this? So one of the guys, I think his name was Brady, said “I think maybe you should ask a forensic engineer to take a look at the pattern in which failed and who should be responsible.” To me, that was pretty smart. So the P.E. is one. I’m also an M.B.A.
I’ve been involved in everything, most of the cases: the U.S. Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, all the way up to the North Carolina Supreme Court. I’ve sat in and looked. It’s my passion. I care about the judicial system, the government, some of the historical perspectives, genealogy. I think the P.E. gives the preparation on how to solve a problem before it gets into the matter of law. When you look at law you’re talking $1 to 10,000 minimum and one to ten years minimum. So things just don’t resolve very easily. So I think the front end of that with the engineer sets up a different approach, a unique approach. You manage the systems and any opportunity. You manage the intro before the case starts and I think the Clerk is between the people and the court system. It’s an opportunity, I think, to be useful.
The current Clerk of Court is not seeking re-election. What changes or improvements would you work for if you are elected as the next Clerk?
I knew that Clerk and I knew the one before that. Both of them are lawyers. It’s a different approach. The most recent, I think the most high profile thing that happened in the news, recently, was two people that were Clerks of the Court were passing through the issue of bonding and when people break their bonds. It was in the paper. I think competence-wise, I think that sometimes having the right people in the Clerk system can be helpful. The question was, what would I do differently? I think I would try more IT, information technology, to manage the interface.
This weekend, we carried my daughter over to Charlotte and a highway patrolman reminded me I was going a little fast listening to the Carolina game but he just said, “take care.” The law doesn’t have to be unfriendly and so, I think, from the Clerk point of view, I’d try to put a smile. Right now, I go over there and I see the Clerk … I like her, I like her daddy, and my daughter went to school with her brother but he’s up in New York now… but I think now she’s sitting in Salisbury Street behind bulletproof glass. It looks very unfriendly. I’m thinking, make it a little more approachable and the personnel more helpful.
The Clerk’s office is responsible for managing some tasks that can be highly emotionally charged for some citizens, such as the foreclosure of property, or the division of an estate after a relative’s death. What can you do to help citizens in such a crisis with facing the paper work and filings required by the Clerk’s office?
I was over in the Clerk of Court in Cumberland County, where I work at. A guy shows up as I was getting something, my family was over there, and this one guy, he comes in, and he’s just distraught to the Clerk’s Office. What do I do? I need a power of attorney and I’ve gone everywhere, I just don’t know what to do. And they say, I can’t help you, we don’t know anything about it. Can’t help you. So, I simply walked over and gave him legalzoom.com and said, have a nice day. I remember when I got my introduction to it like 15 years ago. I wanted to file an appeal. I didn’t get my unemployment. I was like, “I want to file an appeal.” They said, I can’t help you; can’t do that. This is an engineer’s approach, I look up five cases sort of similar. I got what I needed out of it and there I go.
It’s not that difficult. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win but it doesn’t need to be complicated. But it does need to be your idea. You can’t practice law… that’s a different conversation. But, how to make it easier? Advocate for the user and say you’re going to get foreclosed on. I’ve been sitting at that corner. You lose your job and you’re looking at the process of this person shows up or that person shows up. We’ve all been there and if you haven’t, it’s coming. But, I think, to be a little bit more easy and conversational.
I think the legal system, if you’re not careful, can be adversarial. I think the Clerk is the front end of that. Before you start arguing, don’t you want to know what your options are? So I think the foreclosure doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be foreclosed at all. It’s not complicated. You have to share, too. You can send them to somebody if they need more than basic help. I would see what I’d bring differently is a less adversarial interface.