By Sam Poe
Sunday, October 12, 2014 | 12:10 AM
Act 416 of the 2014 Session of the Alabama Legislature will be on the ballot for a vote in the November 4th election in Winston County. Here’s a closer look at what this bill entails.
Currently, when a civil lawsuit is filed, the Circuit Clerk’s Office is responsible for writing the suit. Then, the Winston County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for serving the document to the other party. On average, the Sheriff’s Department alone dedicates about 250 hours per month to serving civil lawsuit paperwork, equaling more than the hours required from one full-time deputy every month. When a deputy is serving civil documents, he or she is unable to patrol in the county or to work on other criminal cases, therefore taking more than an average of 250 hours per month away from the investigation of crimes in the county. Once the documentation is served by the Sheriff’s Department, it returns to the Circuit Clerk’s Office to be filed, adding even more additional hours to the work provided by that office staff. Currently, neither the Circuit Clerk’s Office or the Sheriff’s Department is receiving any funding to provide this work for civil cases.
If you vote yes to Act 416 in the November election, the individual or organization filing the civil lawsuit will be required to pay a one time $20 fee. $10 will go to the Winston County Sheriff’s Department, and $10 will go to the Circuit Clerk’s Office. This money will be audited by the state and will be closely monitored and used only as authorized for personnel and services related to civil cases. It will be put into special accounts for monitoring and auditing purposes. This will allow the employees of the Winston County Circuit Clerk’s Office to remain employed, even if state funding is decreased again. It will also allow the Winston County Sheriff’s Department to hire an additional employee (does not have to be a deputy) whose full-time responsibility will be serving civil documents. This will allow Winston County deputies to work solely on the open criminal cases and to further investigate crimes that have been reported.