Technology was a hot topic when the three Democratic candidates for Circuit Court Clerk spoke at a political forum sponsored by Southern Standard and WCPI.
Casi Powell Cantrell, Duane Sherrill and Melanie Milstead are fighting for the Democratic nomination and will be on the ballot May 1. Early voting begins next Wednesday, April 11.
All three candidates touted the familiarity they’ve gained working with the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in their professional careers.
Sherrill spent 28 years at the newspaper and would visit the clerk’s office several times a week to gather information for stories. Milstead has spent almost 14 years in the legal field and works with the clerk’s office in her job with the District Attorney’s office. Cantrell is office manager for the law firm Galligan and Newman and regularly files cases with the clerk’s office.
Cantrell said she began working for Galligan and Newman at age 19 as the receptionist. After a couple years, she became a legal secretary and is now office manager.
“We know the technology is outdated,” said Cantrell in speaking about the clerk’s office. “We know we need email rather than fax. It would save money. If you email, it’s a push of a button. They’ve been scanning documents at the clerk’s office since 2014. It’s a free service. We should use it. Credit cards are an absolute must. Most other clerk’s offices you can pay online. You can pay traffic citations online.”
Sherrill said a move to more electronic files would save money, while also providing more convenient access to information. Instead of people having to make trips to the clerk’s office, they could go online.
“In the circuit court clerk’s office, we need to get away from using so much paper and ink,” said Sherrill. “We also need to make it to where we can have a website that way if you have court that morning, you can go online and see that. You can go online and see what happened that morning. This is a fast-moving world and people need information fast.”
Milstead said the framework is already in place and it would take little effort to get the clerk’s office into the digital world.
“There’s actually already a website that is warrencountytn.gov and that’s where the Chancery Court has all of their documents and there’s a spot there for Circuit Court Clerk and we just need to utilize it. It’s there,” said Milstead. “It’s not going to cost a thing and we don’t have to do a whole lot but put our court dates on it. There’s also a spot where you can put documents on there.”
Milstead got her start in the legal profession in 2002 at Farrar-Holliman and Medley. She left when she was offered a job at DA’s office as court assistant and says she goes to court two to three times a week. In that capacity, she has insight into how to upgrade the clerk’s office.
“Emails are very, very important,” said Milstead. “That would make it so much easier for attorneys to get copies of the dockets. The girls in the office have also mentioned IM’s (instant messages) between each other so they don’t have to scream out loud. We have it at work at the DA’s office and it’s great.”
Sherrill said he would implement a robo-call system to make it easier for jurors to know when they need to be in court.
“When it snows, do you call the school to see if school is canceled? No you don’t. I say we do the same thing with jurors because you’re giving up your time for $10 a day,” said Sherrill. “We’re going to start calling you when your case is canceled that day and more than 80 percent of cases set for trial do not go to trial on the day in which they are set.”
Cantrell said she has drafted and filed pleadings in all different types of cases in our clerk’s office, as well as clerk’s offices throughout Tennessee. As office manager of Galligan and Newman, she is well versed on technology.
“I am directly involved in all the technology in the office,” said Cantrell. “I have set up our computer systems, our telephone system. I deal with our credit card program. I know how it works. I would like to utilize that in my run for Circuit Court Clerk.”