Technological advancements in the 21st Century are so commonplace that many upgrades seem like no big deal, but the ones made recently in the Franklin County Circuit Clerk’s Office have made a significant difference in its operations.
Circuit Court Clerk Robert Baggett said he has implemented many changes in the office’s operations and has concentrated on efficiency since he took the helm in 2010.
In January 2012, Baggett developed a new website for the office. It is loaded with information regarding the different courts in Franklin County. Court dockets are viewable and downloadable from the site.
Baggett said viewers can access court calendars, fee schedules, local and state rules of court, bonding information, judicial commissioner information and judicial center information. There are also links to free legal resources and court payment procedures.
The website also has a section for jurors. Jury members are able to track up to the minute trial date statuses.
“If a trial has been canceled, settled or continued, we immediately update the website to reflect the change,” he said. “The website is constantly updated in other areas as well throughout the day.”
In April 2012, a new era of technology was introduced into the office.
The Tennessee Court Information System provided court clerks with an automated case management system that reduces paperwork, processes fee collections and improves record keeping and timeliness of case management.
TnCIS also features new scanners where documents will be scanned directly into the case file for easier and quicker access.
“TnCIS is much more user friendly than the old system,” Baggett said. “My staff and I researched other software systems and eventually decided on TnCIS.”
Baggett said the new system has been instrumental in changing the way the office operates.
TnCIS allows for automated reporting of case information to different state agencies.
“Processes that used to take hours or even days to complete now only take a couple of minutes,” he said.
Baggett said the software is consistently updated by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, which oversees the respective legal operations in the state’s 95 counties.
In December 2013, Baggett introduced online access to a new case management system. Subscribers to the service are able to access criminal and civil cases in Circuit and General Session’s courts. The cost for a subscription is currently $350 per year.
Baggett said the system is paid for by the people who use it.
“Collection agencies, record research agencies (and) attorney offices benefit from the service because they have the ability to look up and research cases from their offices,” he said. “Our office benefits because they are not making phone calls asking us to perform record searches.”
Baggett said this allows the clerks to spend more time doing their regular job routines.
He said the office has been very successful with increasing efficiency, and as a result, he has reduced overtime and part-time help by more than 50 percent.
“On July 1 our office will be starting in-house collection procedures,” he said. “We have used an outside collection agency in the past, and they performed a wonderful job, but current law changes have forced me to explore other options.”
Baggett said he, as well as his staff, have developed a plan to use current employees to work on collecting court costs, fines and litigation taxes that are in default.
“We are able to start this new process without the addition of new employees because we have become so efficient in other areas,” he said. “These procedures should provide a major benefit to Franklin County in recovering delinquent cost.”
Baggett serves on the Tennessee State Court Clerk’s Association Board of Directors, County Official’s Association of Tennessee Board of Directors, and Tennessee State Court Clerk’s Association Legislative and Education Committees.
He has also served as President of the Middle Tennessee State Court Clerk’s Association in 2012-13.
Baggett said he owes the accomplishments of the office to his staff.
“I can’t express how blessed I am to have such a wonderful staff,” he said. “They are truly dedicated and eager to move forward in accomplishing our goals. They are always energetic, open to new ideas and willing to make changes when necessary. I can’t say enough about their efforts.”