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A criminal court clerk typically assists a criminal court judge in processing evidence, documents, and records pertaining to criminal law cases held in the courtroom. One of the primary responsibilities of the criminal court clerk is maintaining the legal files containing records of court cases or court trials held in the courthouse. The criminal court clerk also receives documents from attorneys and defendants that need to be filed in criminal case.
Most criminal court districts have statutes in place that require the filing and maintenance of certain legal documents, which typically are required to be filed and kept on record for all criminal cases occurring in the district. For this reason, the criminal court clerk has a great responsibility to accurately keep these legal files in order. Legal files are usually considered public records and may be requested for review by attorneys, defendants, prosecutors, and the media. The clerk generally will receive and respond to these requests with the appropriate documents. Occasionally, a criminal court judge may order all legal files that pertain to a particular case to be sealed to the public, in which case the clerk will need to be aware of this and protect those files from access.
Criminal court clerks also receive and process payments of fines assessed by a judge, and may receive filing fees and other money required by statute at the time of filing of a legal document. Because of the potential for theft and the sensitive nature of the legal documents under their control, criminal court clerks are usually subjected to intense background checks at the time of employment. They might also be required to post a bond in some districts.
Education of people who want to become criminal court clerks typically includes courses in legal terminology, legal research, legal writing, and courtroom procedures that lead to an associate's degree or certificate in legal education. A criminal court clerk will also need to familiarize him- or herself with court rules and procedures for the district in which he or she will be employed. Paralegal programs typically include the needed courses to become a criminal court clerk. These programs are available at many community colleges and universities, and are sometimes approved by the American Bar Association. A student typically should check to see if the program is properly accredited, as well.
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