"Sometimes, people aren't sure if they can access certain information," said Christine Brakeville, the Des Moines County clerk of court.
Access is restricted on certain types of juvenile actions, pending divorces and any involuntary commitments.There also are documents within an accessible file that are not public and are either stapled or placed in an envelope.People with questions about what is not public can ask a staff member.
"Once we explain that, people are OK with that," Brakeville
suggests people go to the counter in her
office and ask staff for the information.The clerk of court and her
staff are accustomed to fielding questions, digging out records and pointing people in the right direction.
"We want to make people comfortable in asking their questions about what they need to do and where they need to go," Brakeville
"Like a lot of the offices in the courthouse, we're pretty limited spacewise for storage of records," Brakeville
"They can be very fragile so we try to keep an eye on those," Brakeville
A hard copy of every record may not be kept forever.How long records are kept depends on the code requirements.To save on storage space, Brakeville tries to get rid of what she
"We can't always address it like we'd like to," Brakeville
Most aspects of the office are governed by the state.
The clerk of court offices have been state, not county, offices since July 1986, so some hours and holidays are not the same as county offices housed in the courthouse. Brakeville began working in the clerk's office as a microfilm clerk in October 1979.She
way through the ranks and in October 1996 was appointed to replace Linda Schulte.
In January 2002, the clerk of court's office lost three positions and a long-time associate court attendant due to state budget cuts.
"That was a rough time for us," Brakeville
said."So we've had to absorb all of those duties.I'm really proud of my staff.They've pulled together."
Statewide, clerks have had to look at practices because with fewer employees not everything could be kept up.Shortly after the cutbacks, Brakeville
temporarily cut office hours.Regular hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday have since resumed.
"Even now at times we struggle but we do the best that we can," Brakeville
The new budget year, which begins July 1, may bring additional changes.For now, Brakeville heads a staff of 13 working in one office split between two floors of the courthouse: Seven in the first-floor associate office and six in the third-floor district court office.
With offices on two floors, Brakeville
staff spend a lot of time running up and down stairs.
The phone number also is one of the first listed in local phone books under the State of Iowa and staff often help callers by transferring them to the needed office, Brakeville
People also ask staff where their attorney is but that's something staff doesn't know, Brakeville
There are a lot of questions about the small claims process and staff help guide people through the process.
"It's a fine line we walk because we try to guide people but we can't give any legal advice," said Brakeville
The clerk and her
staff deal with stressful situations daily but do their best to assist people, Brakeville
said there have been a number of occasions when law enforcement officers have been called in to aid staff who feel threatened.At her
request, protective glass was placed between first-floor staff and customers last year.
"We wear many hats here and we deal with stressful scenarios daily and oftentimes volatile situations, but we do our best to assist people and do so in a courteous and professional manner by treating them fairly and respectfully," Brakeville