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									    Dallas County District Clerk

Functions of the Office And Information About Its
        Operations and Responsibilities:
   Bringing Greater Efficiencies and Superior Customer Service
                  to Citizens of Dallas County
    Function of the District Clerk

The office of district clerk is a little known but
critical part of county government. Every
divorce petition is filed through this office and
every divorce decree is stored here, touching
the lives of thousands of county residents each
year. Evidence from criminal as well as civil
files are maintained by the district clerk as well,
making the office a repository of evidence for
thousands of cases over the years.
Constitutional Provision for District Clerk

The provision for a district clerk has been included
in every Texas constitution since the inception of
the Republic. Article 5, Section 9 of the Texas
constitution provides that there shall be a district
clerk in each county in the state of Texas.
The functions have changed little, although the
technology has, as courts move towards paperless
filing and records are being scanned for computer
storage and retrieval to improve the efficiency of
the office and serve customers more effectively.
       Office of the District Clerk

The district clerk is an elected official who serves
a four-year term. If the office becomes vacant,
a district court judge appoints a new clerk, who
holds office until it is filled in the next regularly
scheduled election. Although the clerk works
closely with each judge, all are independently
elected officials who do not report to each
      Office of the District Clerk

In a Texas county with multiple district judges,
such as Dallas County, a replacement for the
district clerk is appointed by unanimous consent
among all the judges, although the district clerk
does not report to that body. In the event that
judges cannot agree on a replacement, the
Texas governor shall appoint a new district clerk
for the county.
      Duties of the District Clerk

The district clerk provides support for the
district courts in each county by placing a
lead clerk and support clerk to handle
records in cases in each court. The court
administrator, appointed by the judge, has
other duties, such as setting hearings.
      Duties of the District Clerk

The district clerk is custodian of all court
pleadings and papers that are part of any
cause of action, civil or criminal, in the
district courts served by the clerk.
However, depositions are the property of
the court reporter in each court and are
not under the purview of the district clerk.
         Duties of the District Clerk

The district clerk indexes and secures all court
records, collects filing fees, and handles funds held
in litigation as well as money awarded to minors.
When money awarded to a minor in a civil case
becomes due, it is dispensed by the district clerk‟s
trust department, where the money has been held
since its award by a judge or jury.
        Duties of the District Clerk

The Texas constitution also provides that the district
clerk in each Texas county shall be empowered to
accept passport applications. This has been a
particularly challenging role as new requirements have
tripled the demand for passports for air and ground
travel back and forth to and from Texas to Mexico,
creating an unprecedented demand for process for
applications and for Spanish-speaking agents working
in the district clerk‟s three passport locations.
     The Current District Clerk
The current Dallas County district clerk is Gary
Fitzsimmons, who was sworn into office on January 1,
2007. Prior to his election, Mr. Fitzsimmons was a
nonprofit administrator specializing in public parks and
historic preservation, where he managed budgets and
developed long-term strategies for those institutions.
In his first two years, he has instigated major projects
in digitizing court documents and also in scanning
court records, two critical areas vital to streamlining
overburdened courts and records management
           Past District Clerks

Past district clerks include:

Mr. Jim Hamlin, 1999 - 2006
Mr. Bill Long, 1983 – 1997
Mr. T.E. Moore, 1981 - 1982 (appointed)
Mr. Bill Shaw, 1947 - 1980
Ms. Pearl Smith, 1939 - 1946
Mr. George Harwood, 1933 -1938
History of the Office of the District Clerk

Ms. Pearl Smith is the only woman elected as
district clerk in Dallas, and the first woman
deputy sheriff, and the first woman to be elected
to a countywide office in Dallas County. She
attempted to unseat George Harwood in 1934
and lost. In 1938, she formed numerous “Pearl
Smith” Women‟s clubs and won. She was sworn
into office by Judge Sarah T. Hughes, who
gained fame when she sworn in Lyndon B.
Johnson as president aboard Air Force One in
Dallas following the assassination of John F.
 History of the office of the District Clerk
Another note-worthy district clerk was Benjamin
Long, who elected in 1867 but was prevented from
taking office by the Union army after refusing to
take the „Iron-Clad‟ oath. He was later shot to
death in a bar-room brawl at the site of the Dallas
County administration building, formerly the
infamous Texas School Book Depository.
  District Clerk’s Civil Court Responsibilities
In the George Allen Courts Building, the district
clerk‟s office manages judicial process for 13
statutory civil district courts, two civil associate
judges and one permanent visiting judge who
presides over the tax court. These clerks are
responsible for managing court case files and
providing customer service to all litigants, whether
they are Pro Se individuals or members of the legal
community, to the best of their abilities.
   Additional District Clerk Civil Court

The 13 civil courts located in the George Allen
Courts Building are supported by 29 deputy
district clerks and 11 deputy clerks, some of
whom are assigned to support the tax court. All
clerks are trained and reviewed on an annual
basis, assuring their ability to provide the
highest level of service to the courts they
      Cases Submitted at the
      District Clerk Civil Desk
          A Snap-Shot of District Civil Cases
                 Filed 12/06 to 11/07

A total of almost 25,000 new cases in one year

1,772            Injury/damages involving motor vehicle
    54           Workers compensation
 3,381           Tax cases
 4,783           Contracts, accounts & notes
     18          Reciprocals
14,921           Other civil cases
     District Clerk’ Family Courts

The district clerk‟s office also manages the
judicial process for the seven statutory
family district courts, all located in the
George Allen Courts Building. In addition,
it provides services to seven family
associate judges, four IV-D (child support)
courts and the guardian ad litem (GAL)
program established to manage child
support distribution
District Clerk Family Court Support

   The seven family courts have 18 clerks
    assigned to support them with 13 clerks
    assigned to support the IV-D courts, which
    operate in support of cases brought by the
    state‟s attorney general, primarily for the
    purpose of enforcing child support.
District Clerk Family Cases Filed
 A Snap-shot of District Family Cases
        Filed 12/06 to 11/07

       50,772 total dispositions
 46,206 pending cases carried forward

 12, 296         Divorces
 22,890          Other family cases
 11,000 (est.)   IV-D cases
District Clerk Juvenile Court Responsibilities

The District Clerk‟s office manages
judicial process for the two statutory
juvenile courts located in the Henry
Wade Juvenile Justice Center. In
addition, it provides services to two
juvenile associate judges, and unlike
operations in Civil and Family Courts,
juvenile clerks collect fines and fees
associated with juvenile cases.
  District Clerk Juvenile Operations

The two juvenile courts are supported by
six deputy district clerks while 14 deputy
clerks are assigned to support juvenile
case records, collections and process. All
of these clerks and their manager work in
the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center.
      District Clerk Juvenile Operations
          District Juvenile Cases Filed 12/06 to 11/07

             11,182 including probation revocation
              7,268 pending cases carried forward

                                CINS   DELIN      TOTAL
    Under parental care         22     1,916      1,938
    Under foster care           1      26         27
    Residential facility        8      802        810
    Committed to TYC            1      60         61
    (Texas Youth Commission)
    District Clerk Criminal Courts

The District Clerk‟s office manages judicial
 process for the 18 felony courts located in the
 Frank Crowley Courts Building . In addition, it
 provides 24-hour services to the magistrate
 court located at Lew Sterrett Justice Center,
 processing individuals who have been arrested
 and are awaiting arraignment.
District Clerk Criminal Courts Operations

The criminal section of the district clerk‟s
office also provides criminal process
services, criminal fine and court cost
collections, indictment and appeals
process, and manages bond forfeitures,
requiring a different skills set from those
clerks who work in the civil and family
District Clerk Criminal Courts Operations

The 18 criminal courts are supported by 38
deputy district clerks while 12 deputy
clerks are assigned to the magistrate court
and work 24-hour shifts to ensure that
book-in of arrested suspects goes as
smoothly as possible, so cases may move
to the next stage of the criminal judicial
   District Clerk Criminal Courts Operations

There are 14 deputy clerks assigned to the
criminal process section including those who
handle indictments, expunctions, appeals
and bond forfeitures, while six deputy clerks
are assigned to oversee criminal collections
and two clerks who manage protective
orders exclusively.
District Clerk Criminal Court Operations

In addition to the support of the magistrate
and felony courts, collections, expunction
and protective orders, the district clerk is
also charged with the duty of managing
criminal trial court evidence. One clerk,
called the criminal evidence registrar, is
assigned to manage the retention of more
than 25 years of evidence, including
hundreds of weapons and other non-paper
District Clerk Criminal Court Operations
         A Snap-Shot of Felony Cases Filed
                from 12/06 to 11/07

                32,851 new cases
105 capital murder           3,629 theft
153 murder                   774 auto theft
3,157 assault                105 arson
153 sex assaults/adult       10,438 drug sales
120 sex assaults/juv
                             711 drug possession
1,755 robbery
                             755 felony DWI
2,591 burglary
                             8,558 various felonies
District Clerk Trust and Accounting Operations

  Each district and county clerk must
  maintain a registry of the court to receive
  payments ordered tendered into the
  court‟s registry ordered by various judges
  to be held in the court‟s registry for the
  benefit of whomever it is ultimately
  adjudged to belong, including accident
  victims, minors and others whose money
  the district clerk protects.
District Clerk Trust and Accounting Operations

  The funds held in the registry of court do
  not belong to the county; rather, they are
  essentially held in trust by the clerk to
  satisfy the result of a legal pleading or to
  await the outcome of a legal proceeding.
District Clerk Trust and Accounting Responsibilities

 Although the funds in the registry of court
 are construed as trust funds, the clerk acts
 only in a custodial capacity in relation to
 funds held in the registry of court. A clerk
 is not a trustee for the beneficial owner
 and does not assume the duties,
 obligations, or liabilities of a trustee for a
 beneficial owner.
District Clerk Trust and Accounting Responsibilities

        Funds in the Registry of the Court

    Presently, $43,299,339 total funds are under the
    custodial care of the district clerk
   90% of all funds are minor trust funds
   10% of funds are interpleader fees
   $33,299,339 funds are currently in investment
   $10,000,000 approximately in funds are cash
District Clerk Trust and Accounting Functions

      Registry of the Court Policy Changes

 In the currently volatile economic environment,
 the current district clerk has directed that funds
 currently deposited with over 40 different
 financial institutions are to be consolidated into
 two different public investment pools except
 where the rate of return justifies continued
District Clerk Trust and Accounting Functions
                Investment Pools

 Government Investment Pool (GIP), or Local
 Government Investment Pool (LGIP), is a state
 or local government pool offered to public
 entities for the investment of public funds.
 These pools are important investments tools,
 offering safety with a competitive yield. GIP
 managers are vested with a public trust that the
 pool will maintain liquidity, diversity, and follow
 the investment pool‟s guidelines.
       District Clerk Records
Local Government Records Act Chapters 201-205
requires that all district clerks establish
programs for the efficient and cost-effective
management of the records of their offices. It
also requires that the records of the office of
district clerk be retained for minimum periods of
time set by the Texas State Library and Archives
Commission before they are eligible for disposal.
This means that the district clerk has
responsibility for more than one million records
in storage from civil, family, juvenile and
criminal courts records.
     District Clerk Records
Any information created or received by a
district clerk pursuant to law or in the
transaction of public business is a local
government record, regardless of whether
it is a document, paper, letter, book, map,
photograph, sound or video recording,
microfilm, magnetic tape, electronic
medium, or any other type of information
recording medium and regardless of
whether it is an open or closed record.
      District Clerk Records

Court records in the custody of the district
clerk are not subject to the provisions of
the Public Information Act (PIA). Access to
court records are governed by Rule 12 of
the Texas Rules of Judicial Procedure.
     District Clerk Records
Rule 12 stipulates that the purpose of the
rule is to provide public access to
information in the judiciary consistent with
the mandates of the Texas Constitution
that the public interests are best served
by open courts and by an independent
judiciary. The rule should be liberally
construed to achieve its purpose.
    District Clerk Records
Management and administrative memos,
notes, documents, email, correspondence
and other budget materials are all public
record and covered by the PIA.
          District Clerk Records
    The District Clerk Records department
    manages case files on site and at the
    Dallas County records warehouse.

   Civil paper records from 2002 to present – 60,00
   Civil microfilm records from 1979 to 1994 – 150,000
   Family paper records from 1995 to present – 260,000
     District Clerk Records
The District Clerk‟s Records department
employs 43 deputies who manage civil,
family and criminal records. In addition,
13 deputies are currently assigned to the
records imaging project in which records
are being scanned for more efficient
storage and retrieval, providing cost-
saving in storage, and a higher level of
customer service.
    District Clerk Passports Functions
                   2007 Accomplishments
    After a period of activity in which most passport applicants were
    applying for document to travel for business or vacation to primarily
    European travel, the past few years have seen a dramatic
    transformation in the number of Hispanic travelers following new US
    guidelines for ground and air travel into and out of Latin American
    countries. During the past few years, the District Clerk‟s Passports
    locations have:

   Handled 260% increase in new applicants with existing staff
   Received “Best of Dallas” award for Best Public office in Dallas
   Opened East Dallas office an additional day, from three to four
   Added bilingual staff to North and East Dallas offices
District Clerk Passports Handles Record Number of
Applications Due to New Government Requirements




     2006           2007           2008
District Clerk Passports Goals

       Open all three offices five days a week
       Open at least one office on Saturday
       Accept credit card payments
       Add bilingual staff to Downtown office
       Upgrade computers and printers
            Civil and Family Digital Courts
                     Project Goals

   Complete Family Courts imaging project so all documents are stored
    on computers, enhancing efficiency of case management.
   Commence Civil/Tax Courts Imaging project so majority of civil
    cases filed by firms can be submitted by Texasonline, providing
    superior customer service.
   Integrate Texasonline E-filing with Odyssey Case Management
    system to streamline case management internally and externally.
   Provide downloadable civil and family filing forms and instructions
    on the District Clerk website to support more efficient filing
    procedures for Pro Se's and attorneys.
   Support the development of Information Technology plan for
    Juvenile Courts to provide those courts the same efficiencies as civil
    and family courts.
   Support implementation of Juvenile Case Management system.
Office of the District Clerk Locations

George Allen Courts Building
600 Commerce Street at Market
Civil/Family Filing Desk (first floor) open 8 am to 6 pm
Other departments open 8 am – 4:30 pm

Frank Crowley Courthouse
133 N. Industrial at West Commerce
Offices open 8 am – 4:30 pm
Clerks office closed noon – 1 pm for lunch

Henry Wade Juvenile Center
2600 Lone Star Dr. off I-35
Office open 8 am – 4:30 pm
Closed noon – 1 pm for lunch
Office of the District Clerk Locations

Passport Office Downtown
George Allen Courts Building
600 Commerce St. at Market Street
8:30 am – 4 pm Monday-Friday

East Dallas Government Center
3443 St. Francis off I-30
7:30 am – 4:30 pm Monday-Thursday

North Dallas Government Center
10056 Marsh Lane, Suite 137 north of Walnut Hill
7:30 am – 4:30 pm Tuesday-Friday

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