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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Slow Court Solutions

With the recent court budget cutbacks, many courts no longer place enough priority on processing writs or abstracts of judgment for creditors. Some courts can take six months to process such requests.

This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.

I heard that it can now take a year to get a judgment renewal done by mail. Although the lines have never been longer at many California (and other State) courts, I do not recommend mailing anything to most courthouses.

In the current climate of layoffs and reduced hours throughout all California Courts; the clerks are under the constant threat of being laid off, and like many workers, are constantly receiving more work for the same pay.

Many courts are backed up because they have terminated some very qualified and experienced workers. They replaced them with just a few new hires; usually for greatly reduced pay, and shorter hours, so they will not qualify for benefits.

Although the long term solution could come with electronic filing, not all judgment related documents are simple enough for electronic filing without human intervention; probably at least not for the next decade. Some documents require issuance from the court, such as a writ of execution or a judgment renewal; and both require a lot of clerk "think time".

Why should fully paid-for court clerk "seats" remain empty while the lines at the clerk windows continue to grow? These are seven ideas that might help solve the problem of slow court filing response times:

1) Have the courts provide some type of license or permit, to a few of their retired or ex-clerks, and give them an opportunity to start their own business. That business could be to let creditors pay them to go to the court and complete what needs to be done at already empty desks, doing what they already know how to do.

Creditors would pay them a price premium, so their business can make a profit; and then that business would pay the court their standard fees. The court would be freed from the pressures they are now experiencing; and people who do not want to wait, can choose to pay more, to get things done quickly.

2) Civil court document service by drive-through windows. A similar type of thing is already being done in Texas. The Travis County Clerk in Austin, has a drive-through window for various types of paperwork. Although they may not process all paperwork, they handle vehicle title transfers and registration renewals.

Perhaps drive-through service is an idea too good to ever be implemented by a government agency. However, people can get married at a drive-through window; so they should be able to file certain court forms or have them issued at one. The technology to do this is proven and popular.

Already, there are tube-based systems where you load your paperwork into a vacuum tube and boom; it almost instantly appears in front of a clerk behind bullet-proof glass. Money, credit cards, and legal papers can go in; credit card slips (to sign), or change can come out, with court-stamped papers.

Drive-through court clerk windows would offer several benefits. Banks often have a single clerk, that can handle two lines at the drive-through windows. While one clerk could work, two clerks would work better. Because of technology, it does not matter where the drive through is, as long as there are official court file stamps, a computer connection behind a firewall (or a wireless VPN) and a change drawer; the clerks can do their job.

Most people would rather sit in their cars; than pay to park, and then wait in lines. While waiting in cars, people can listen to music, eat, let their baby sleep, and do other things one cannot do while waiting in line at a court clerk's window.

Any court that offers drive-through clerk service would get nationwide attention for their creative solution to the current bogged-down court situation.

3) Pay civil clerks at least partially on commission. Perhaps $1.50 per correctly filed paper, and $2.00 per correct paper issued. The faster clerks with more experience would make more money than the slower or newer clerks.

4) Increase the use of "Express" windows at courts. Examples might be windows for up to two transactions, or Court forms only, cash or credit cards only, etc. It amazes me how much court clerks write on checks, and look at IDs; because if any check bounces, they can simply reject the previously filed form.

5) Increase the use of "Self-Service" boxes, desks, or windows. With a computerized system, people could fill in a form on a screen, pay, then stamp and conform their own papers. Of course, later a clerk might reject the transaction (perhaps with no refunds) if there was a mistake.

6) Have courts add an option for a profitable speedy processing service, for forms that usually take days or weeks to process. For an (e.g., $25) fee, one could get forms processed while they wait. When the paperwork is ready, the court could display your name on a screen or announce it over the loudspeaker; or give you a beeper, like some restaurants use for when your table is ready.

7) An express mailing code system, where you can order (for e.g., $25) and put the code on the envelope. Then, when you mail the envelope to the court with that valid code, they will turn it around quickly.

The more work the courts get done, the more money the courts get paid. Any of these suggestions will likely need changes at the legislative level. To make such ideas work, requires someone with some clout and contacts. Perhaps the Bar Associations and other legal groups or organizations would be interested?

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