Probate Judge asks for additional clerk

By Charles Warner cwarner@civitasmedia.com

April 17, 2014

UNION COUNTY — The Union County Probate Judge’s Office needs three clerks to handle an already heavy and often complex workload that will likely get heavier in the years to come according to Probate Judge Donna Cudd.

In a presentation to Union County Council during a budget session Tuesday evening, Cudd asked council to reinstate a clerk’s position in her office, bringing the total number of clerks to three. Cudd said that the third clerk’s position was established in 1975 and remained part of the office’s staff for 35 years until being eliminated by council in 2010. She said that in the four years since she has operated her office with only two clerks, but it has not worked out because of the nature of the services the office provides and the growth of its workload.

“Council decided to cut positions and that was one that was cut,” Cudd said. “I’ve been down to two clerks since and I’ve tried to make it work but it is not working.

“From 2008-2013 there was a 36.6 percent in just the estate workload of this office and it will continue to increase along with the rest of the workload,” she said. “We deal one on one with people, we provide services that no other office does. My clerks will spend an hour with someone setting up an estate. It’s dealing one on one with the public and each case is different from the rest. We just don’t operate like the other offices.”

Cudd said all her clerks are cross-trained so that they can perform all the duties of the office including:

• Open, monitor, and close estates.

• Take applications and issue marriage licenses and certificates.

• Work with genealogy.

• Meet with the public.

• Open and monitor conservators and guardians.

• Serve as court reporters.

• Monitor legal notices and obituaries and cut them out of the newspaper.

• Serve as notaries.

In addition to the services it provides the people of Union County, Cudd said her office has also been required by the new gun law to pull all information about people who have been involuntarily committed for mental issues over the past 10 years and submit it to the state and federal databases. Cudd said that during this process the county has provided her with a temporary clerk who was able to take on the duties of a full-time clerk. She said this enabled the full-time clerk to assist her in getting that information, but that even with the help she still had to work some Saturdays and will probably have to work a few more to complete it.

Cudd said special projects such as providing the information required by the gun law is another example of why her office needs a third clerk.

Another reason cited by Cudd in her presentation was the fact that, after the end of this year, there will be new probate judge.

In March, Cudd announced that, after 25 years in office, she would retire rather than seek a seventh term.

Cudd said that her request for a third clerk is to ensure the smoothest possible transition for the new probate judge in order to ensure the office continues providing its services to the people of Union County as effectively and efficiently as possible.

“This is not necessarily for me, I know how to do this work,” Cudd said. “There will be changes after this year and I’m looking at the future for the people of Union County.”