By Jean Cole
Limestone residents who have to pay speeding tickets, obtain warrants or conduct other business with the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in Athens may soon have only four days a week in which to do it.
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered all circuit and district court offices in the state to close to the public on Wednesdays beginning March 20 unless the presiding judge in a county obtains an exemption from the chief justice.
Court officials would still work on Wednesdays, but they would do so without public interruptions.
Moore ordered the closure due another round of impending cuts to the Alabama Office of Courts. Repeated cuts to the office of courts has triggered staff cuts over the past few years, forcing existing clerks to do more work while the number of filed cases increase. By setting aside one day a week when clerks and their staff could work uninterrupted, Moore believes the offices can better handle the cuts and the workload.
Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb had issued an order in 2011 allowing clerks offices to close early during the week to allow clerks to address paperwork.
Limestone County Circuit Clerk Brad Curnutt told The News Courier today he had reopened the office full time when he took over in January. He did keep the office closed during lunch due to lack of staff. He said he would meet with presiding Circuit Judge Jimmy Woodroof Jr. Monday to determine the best way to address the chief justice’s order.
Moore said lawmakers cut funding for the courts by $25 million for fiscal 2013. An offset to the cut would still leave a $13 million shortfall. The appropriation for 2014 will be $16.5 million short of what is needed, Moore said.