An employee of a court at the county level, a county court clerk typically is tasked with maintaining records, administering oaths, and overseeing the administrative operations of the court on behalf of the judge. This person usually is the one who administers the oath to jurors, as well. Traditionally, they are appointed by the judge, charged with being the custodian of court records, and the collector of fees due to the court.
A county court clerk typically is trained in all aspects of office management, information management, human resources, and basic legal duties. Most of this training usually is conducted on the job. A formal education is not generally required to become a court clerk, but some level of experience or training usually is preferred. Many court clerks have degrees in criminal justice, law, political science, or information management.
Some county court clerks are trained either informally or through vocational training programs in paralegal studies. In many ways, a court clerk is to a judge what a paralegal is to a lawyer. It is also possible for people to rise through the ranks of the courthouse administrative system by beginning as a volunteer or part-time employee. Even though the minimum educational requirements to become a court clerk are low, many attorneys, police investigators, and curious historians turn to the county court clerk for guidance and direction. The vast amount of legal knowledge possessed by many court clerks is the result of reviewing thousands of legal documents over careers that can span decades.
The job of a court clerk is typically considered an important part of both the criminal justice system and society as a whole. As a custodian of records, court clerks maintain historical data — everything from important county and municipal documents to real estate sales records. The information that is maintained by the county court clerk usually is vital for planning, budgeting, and historical preservation research.
As technology has improved over the years, so have the capabilities of the court clerk. Prior to computers, there were cases of important documents being lost or damaged in fires, floods, and other disasters. The effects of such a disaster can usually be minimized if the information is digitally preserved on off-site computer servers. Court clerks typically oversee and implement programs to facilitate the digital preservation of their records.
The size of the county is generally relative to the volume of work a court clerk can expect to do. Clerks in small counties may work alone as the only assistant to the judge, while clerks in larger counties often direct a large number of employees and deputies. In most cases a court clerk will be restricted from interpreting the law or offering legal advice, but he or she is generally permitted to offer guidance on where to find the answers to questions.