Budget cuts slice public access to circuit clerk offices

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Citing inadequate funding, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb Monday issued a proclamation ordering cuts in operating hours to the public at each county's circuit clerk office.

Starting on August 1, each office must cut up to 10 hours per week from their public operating hours, though the remaining workers will continue focusing on administrative duties during those down hours.

Cobb's directive left the decision up to the local office on which days and what hours to cut, though each office must notify the public of its times.

Cobb, saying the justice system is in crisis, ordered the shorter weeks because of additional layoffs. Some 255 employees are to be cut from their jobs in the days before Fiscal Year 2012 starts on October 1.

The Chief Justice's order said fewer hours dealing with the general public and attorneys will allow those remaining employees time to focus on essential work during the week.

The system, operating at 65 to 70 percent of recommended levels, according to the Chief Justice, currently employs 750 people in circuit clerks offices around the state. That number will be reduced to around 500, or 40 to 45 percent of recommended staffing levels, at the start of the new fiscal year.

Cobb said the Legislature has enacted $64 million in requirements for the judiciary over the last decade but has only provided $34 million in additional funding.

Cobb recently announced she will step down from her position on the court.

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