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 Some of the most important issues facing the Island County Clerk's Office today include:

  • Helping the public navigate new unlawful detainer (eviction) procedures

Post-COVID, unlawful detainer (also called eviction) processes changed significantly for both tenant and landlord. For almost two years, the Clerk's office had to refer people to outside sources for forms and information. Working with Island County Superior Court Judges and staff from other counties, Deb rebuilt the packet to include directions, forms, and other resources that comply with the new process. Staff members are now able to assist the public with unlawful detainer forms and general guidance either on the phone or in person.

  • Replacing the e-filing system

In 2020, the Clerk's office implemented a new e-filing system provided by third-party vendor Shortly after implementation, user complaints about being overcharged, slow reimbursements and a lack of response to these problems led Deb and her staff to drop the company and revamp the e-filing system. The number of user complaints declined significantly and the current process is working well. Attorneys and non-attorneys alike use e-filing as a convenient alternative to mailing documents or filing in person.

  • Providing assistance to those impacted by the State Supreme Court Blake Decision 

In a nutshell, the State Supreme Court recently overturned a 1972 law regarding possession of illegal substances. As a result of that decision, hundreds of people in Island County who paid court fines and fees in the last fifty years were suddenly eligible to get some of that money back. Deb worked with the Island County Prosecutor's office, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and other County Clerks across the state to make this process efficient and accurate. So far, about 20 people have completed the refund process to receive money due to them, but we expect those numbers to climb in the next few months.

  • Staffing changes

    For the last few years, the Clerk's office has been fortunate in its ability to hire and retain team members - about 50% of current staff have been in their positions for three years or more. County wages have struggled to keep pace with inflation - making this achievement even more impressive. But staffing issues still occur. Each courtroom requires the physical presence of a Deputy Clerk when in session, and that can leave the office understaffed. Working with the County Commissioners, Deb replaced the part-time records scanning position with a new part-time counter clerk position to provide general customer service during those times the office might be short-staffed. We're hopeful this change, along with other staffing adjustments, will maintain the level of customer service and responsiveness the residents of Island County have come to expect from the Clerk's office.
  • Public access to court records

Court records can be obtained in several ways: in person at the Clerk's office, by mail, and electronically using the Washington State Digital Archive website. For many, using the Digital Archive are the quickest and most convenient way to get copies of their court documents. Last year, amid growing concerns from users, Deb made the decision to shift away from third-party provider ClerkePass to using Digital Archive exclusively. Since the switch, purchasers have reported faster turnaround, better customer service, and lower cost.

Debra Van Pelt
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