Monday, August 10, 2009

Lawyers, judges criticize clerk of courts

FORT LAUDERDALE - Judges and attorneys took turns Thursday throwing brickbats at the Broward Clerk of Courts Office -- complaining about crucial paperwork missing from files, lost documents, and long lines for the public.

Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman wasn't present to dodge or return the brickbats at the forum called by Broward Chief Judge Victor Tobin. Afterward Forman said Tobin's meeting was "unprecedented and inappropriate" and he was never formally invited.

"If people have a problem with me, let them come to me and I'll try to solve it," Forman said. "The motivation for his meeting? There is a political war going on between the judges and the clerks." He referred to a legislative battle over control of clerks' offices that the clerks won this spring.

Tobin said he will meet with Forman next week to decide what to do next.

About 40 people attended Thursday's forum. Attorneys representing bar associations and news organizations and criminal court judges said Forman's overworked clerks move too slowly and have to deal with a paper system that should be computerized.

Tobin said he got a tour of the clerk's office and "I don't believe there was a level surface, including the floor, that didn't include papers for filing."

Forman, first elected to his post in 2000, has fielded a number of complaints in recent months.

Attorney Elizabeth Finizio, on the board of the Broward County Women Lawyers' Association, said people have to wait 15-30 minutes in line for paperwork. "There are 12 windows, four or five have closed' signs, and you can see three or four people milling around talking to each other," she said.

In April the Broward County Women Lawyers' Association wrote Forman to suggest making personnel accountable for files that are misplaced or lost. The same month the Broward County Bar Association complained in writing that pleadings, motions, affidavits and other paperwork are not accurately filed, meaning hearings have to be postponed, or lawyers must carry on in court without needed documents.

A file missing papers "translates to somebody sitting in the Broward County jail," said Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes. "It's a major, major problem in the criminal division."

Interviewed after the forum, Forman defended his office, saying he is working to get things moving faster and is only three days behind in case filings."We got a little bit of overtime money, weekend crews that help us catch up." He said he is taking steps to move toward a paperless system, and that he gets more compliments than complaints.

At the forum Tobin said the office's inefficiency requires his involvement. "If we remain silent we get nowhere."

After the meeting he made a vague threat: "There are serious consequences that can happen for not performing your job as an elected official."

Said Forman: "I'm performing my job as an elected official very well. It's political rhetoric coming from Victor Tobin. But I am happy we are meeting Aug. 12 and we can get down to business."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Broward County Court House Clerk of Courts Lost my Custody Order 2011.
In 2009 I asked the courts permission to relocate my children and sole custody because their father was in jail again. He abandoned the kids in 2007 with no contact or support and was not able to be located until late 2009. It was granted by then, Magistrate Brown, then adaopted by Jugde Horowitz.The magistrate ordered sole custody to me including sole decision making, the Father was not allowed visitation even after release, contact to be made by mail,and permission to relocate. She said she had to write it up and then she would mail it out. I never received it. I searched the court files and it was missing. Contacted the supervisor. Just GONE! I need this important order. I told the judge, no help. I was told to buy a copy of the recording of the hearing for $25.00 from the courthouse. I did. I listened, it is all on there. It has to be transscribed by a court reported approved by Broward County which costs $65.00 listening fee, admin fee, $5.00 per page equals to $175.00 at least, plus the $25.00 i paid for the CD. I complained to the judge asking him for a copy because he must have a copy of what he adopted (he must have read the order/ report by the magistrate in order to adopt it?) He told me to file indigent if I didn't have the money to pay for it. But indigency doesn't cover paying for the court's mistakes and errors. I checked I tried. Horowitz wants me to set a new hearing with the father present to fight for sole custody. The father is missing again and I can't serve him. So I can't go back to court with out finding the Father. I tried and failed. i don't have money for a Private Eye. Why do I have to pay for a mistake that the Broward County Court Clerk has made? Why do I have to have another hearing when I was already awarded sole custody? The judge told me to hire an attourney but I don't have money. I am a single Mother currently underemployeed. Legal Aid can't help. Who Do I complain to? This is unfair, unjust. Especially for my kids. I am supposed to take food out of their mouths to pay for the Broward county Court systems errors and mistakes. How could no one have a copy of that order? It is the most important paper in the whole case file. What can I do? Where and who do I write letters to?