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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: December 5, 2014 03:24 PM
From: Senator Donald C. White
To: All Senate members
Subject: Clerk of Court/Prothonotary Transfer Act
 
I plan to re-introduce legislation (Senate Bill 1215 from last session) which would transfer county clerks of court, prothonotaries and selected deputies to judicial system service. The transfer would be similar to that of the district court administrators, which was made in 2000 under Act 12 of 1999

Because these offices are essential to the functioning of the county courts, I believe placing them under the direction of the president judge would better assure proper staffing, funding and efficiency. This proposal would apply to all prothonotaries and clerks of court (or equivalent offices in home rule counties), as well as clerks of orphans’ court whose offices are combined with the prothonotary or clerk of court. .

Bringing these offices under the Unified Judicial System (UJS) will standardize statewide court practices and collection procedures and eliminate existing disparities to establish a more cohesive, efficient operation. Additionally, by removing these offices from the political process every four years, the threat of job disruption and loss of professional expertise would be eliminated.

Under this proposal, new offices would be created in each judicial district to mirror current offices and all duties and responsibilities would be transferred to the supervision of the president judge. As applicable, there would be a civil, criminal and orphan’s court division records office. Any offices currently combined would remain so under this proposal.

This proposal would permit current elected officials to transfer to state service immediately. However, if an official chooses not to transfer, the office would be transferred at the expiration of the current term. To ensure the transition would not be financially detrimental, officials could have the option after transfer of either becoming a member of the state benefit and retirement system or remaining with the county system. Hiring and termination of state-level employees would be handled in the same manner as the district court administrators and deputies (i.e. a recommendation of the president judge subject to the approval of the state court administrator or the Supreme Court).

Funding would come from the county court cost reimbursement grant, which is a current line item, with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) deducting the salary and benefit costs of the transferred offices from the amount appropriated. Remaining funds in the grant would be distributed to the counties. Utilization of the existing funding will make this proposal revenue neutral for the state and could save counties money in the long run.

Please contact Anne Achenbach, of my staff, at 787-4404 or at aachenbach@pasen.gov if you have any questions regarding this proposed legislation.




Introduced as SB363