A court clerk (English English clerk to the court; American English clerk of the court or clerk of court) is an officer of the court whose responsibilities include maintaining the records of a court. Another duty is to administer oaths to witnesses, jurors, and grand jurors. The clerk also was the custodian of the court's seal, which is used to authenticate copies of the court's orders, judgments and other records.
The clerk may be more precisely titled after the (type of) court, e.g. clerk of the peace attending to a justice of the peace, clerk of the police court, etc. On Guernsey, the medieval French term greffe is used (in the magistrates' court).
In courts without a clerk, or if there is no specific officer otherwise available, the judge may have authority to act as clerk of the court, as sometimes in a short-staffed probate court.
In the federal court system, each district court, court of appeals, and bankruptcy court, as well as the Supreme Court, has its own clerk, appointed by the judges of the court. The Clerk is the custodian of the court's records and money; the Clerk of Court is essentially the CIO and CFO for a court system. The Clerk's responsibilities can also include serving as Jury Commissioner, Probate Registrar/Registrar of Wills/County Surrogate Judge, and the office issues marriage licenses. Some Clerks of Court are not appointed but are elected at the county or district level. There is some discussion as to whether or not elected Clerks should be elected because the person elected may not be the most qualified for the position.
In all jurisdictions, the Clerk of the Court is a senior executive level administrator. They typically manage a staff of people ranging from only a few to over a thousand employees. They will be the budget directors responsible for analyzing complex financial data and make projections based on that data. Clerks of Court are typically experts in human resources compliance, project management, negotiation, diplomacy, probate law (in many jurisdictions the Clerk is also a Probate Registrar, Surrogate or Registrar of Wills) benefits management, financial compliance (GAAP/GASB), information systems, court procedures, jury management, and overall business management.
In areas where the Clerk of Court is elected the salary will range from $50,000-$100,000 or more whereas in areas where the Clerk is appointed the salary range will typically start at $95,000 and go up to $178,000 or more. A few of the largest Clerk's offices in the USA are the Cook County Clerk's office in Chicago, Illinois and the Maricopa County Clerk's office in Phoenix, Arizona.
England and Wales
In the magistrates' courts of England and Wales, where the bench will usually have no legal qualifications, the Court Clerk will be legally qualified. The magistrates decide on the facts at issue; the clerk advises them on the law relating to the case.
- "Magistrates and Magistrates' Courts". Her Majesty's Courts Service. Retrieved 2008-06-24.