The latest incident relating to Courthouse dysfunction is in Clearfield County. Several news articles have been written about the situation going on there between the Judges and the Prothonotary; both of these offices are elected by the people. There are several different offices inside a Courthouse. Some are elected and others are hired by the County Judges. Those that are elected do not answer to the County Judges or the County Commissioners, they only answer to you the public during an election.
First I want to touch on what each office is and what they do.
Prothonotary; they are the keepers of records. They accept filings with the Court and manage the Court files. In smaller counties they handle both civil and criminal cases for the Court. This is an elected office.
Clerk of Courts; they are also keepers of records, specifically the Criminal records. Most smaller Counties do not have a Clerk of Courts or if they do they work directly with the Prothonotary. Larger Counties have the Clerk of Courts and Prothonotary is completely separated offices, as to completely separate the criminal and civil cases. This is an elected office.
Register of Will/Deeds/Orphans Court; these three may be combined or separated depending on the size of the County. They record wills for probate and estate administration, issue marriage licenses, deal with land transfers, and record deeds, among many other functions. All three of these offices have elected officials.
Sheriff Office; this office varies a lot depending on the County. However generally they are responsible for the safety at the Courthouse, the transfer of inmates to and from the Courthouse, the issuing and serving of warrants, some counties also used they to maintain the jail, and some counties allow them to operate as a local police department. The sheriff is an elected official.
The Cost and Fines Office; this office collects funds do to the Court through sanctions issued by Judges rulings. This is an office of the Court and not elected.
Probation Office; supervises individuals who are placed on probation supervision, house arrest, and several other programs that vary across the state of Pennsylvania. They also conduct evaluation and create presentence investigation reports for the Court. This is an office of the Court and not elected.
Court Administration; this office is responsible for the Court calendar and scheduling of all matters with the Courthouse. This is an office of the Court and not elected
District Attorney Office; this office is responsible for prosecuting cases. This is an elected office.
Public Defenders Office; this office is responsible for providing defense to individuals who are deemed unable to hire their own attorney. This is an elected office.
As you can see there are a lot of different entities that have to function together to make a Courthouse run properly and when any of these offices start fighting or not co-operating it can cause major issues throughout the rest of the Courthouse. Here at Manchester and Associates we have the privilege to have practiced in almost every county across Pennsylvania. We have seen what goes on in different Courthouses and how they run their business. There are multiple Counties in which there is current infighting where Sheriff offices will not go get inmates even though the Judge ordered them to, where Prothonotary offices will not give information to the Court Administrators so that hearings can be scheduled, where Clerk of Courts will not provide documents/information to Attorneys and Court staff even when the County Judges request the information. This stuff happens and most of what I just mentioned is happening right now across Pennsylvania.
In the end when County Officials cannot get along and care more about their own egos they the people of the Counties in which they serve, the only people that get hurt are us the citizens of Pennsylvania. If you hire an attorney that is unaware of the issues in a particular courthouse it can have real ramifications in your case. It is very important that you have an Attorney on your side that can navigate the system and know how to circumvent problem offices in a Courthouse.
It is extremely important to contact an experienced law firm right away if you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania. If you, your son, daughter, or loved one in Pennsylvania has been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation Here at Manchester and Associates we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For a free consultation we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.