Mike Hammond proposes combining Knox County court clerk’s offices

Knox County Criminal Court
Knox County Criminal Court

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Knox County Criminal Clerk of Courts Mike Hammond is asking Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett to combine the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk’s office with the Circuit Court clerk’s office.

Hammond says streamlining all of the offices under one management and operation would help both offices work more efficiently. He offered two recommendations: merging civil sessions with criminal sessions and combining all court clerk’s offices under one clerk.

Merging civil sessions and criminal sessions court would be a smooth transition, according to Hammond, since session’s court judges already hear cases in both courts and the criminal court clerk’s office already serve judges through criminal sessions. He said merging the two courts would allow civil sessions to move towards digital and paperless initiatives and use the criminal session’s procedures and collection efforts in all offices.

Mike Hammond
Mike Hammond

The first option, merging civil sessions and criminal sessions court could be implemented through a private act introduced in the legislature, according to Hammond, which would require a 2/3 vote for the Knox County County Commission after passage in the legislature. He said the option could become effective this spring.

The second option, combining all court clerk’s offices under one clerk, would require additional time to accomplish, according to Hammond. He recommended choosing this option at the end of his and Knox County Circuit Court Clerk Cathy Shanks’ terms in office.

Hammond said the second option would provide an opportunity for all court clerk offices to unite and operate under one circuit court clerk umbrella. Under that option, any candidate for office would be running for the Knox County Circuit Court Clerk in 2018.

Shanks says some of Hammond’s claims are incorrect and “unrealistic” and that he has never spoken with her about them.

She says the Criminal Court Clerk’s Office relies on obsolete document storage, retrieval and delivery methods, whereas the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office uses an electronic content management system.

She also says as of 2012, her office, as a result of state legislation, no longer handles worker’s compensation cases and short-term mental health commitments, resulting in an annual loss of more than $100,000 in fees, and that the office already collects 95 percent of the fees it generates. Civil Sessions Court is pay-as-you-go, meaning people pay up front when they file a document.

More online: Read Shanks’ response [PDF]

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to Mayor Burchett for comment about the recommendations by Hammond.

“The County Clerks of Court are independently elected officeholders and their offices are governed by state law,” said Mayor Burchett. “This is a very complex issue, but ensuring quality services to the citizens who depend on these offices should be a top priority.”

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