No layoffs for county’s court system

Published 1:41 pm Friday, April 1, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Shelby County’s court system has been spared from an anticipated 150 state-ordered layoffs throughout Alabama’s Unified Judicial System, county court officials said April 1.

Alabama’s administrative director of courts, Callie Dietz, said March 28 that the layoffs were “imminent” and would be effective May 1.

“The reason we didn’t lose any was because they are cutting law clerks and bailiffs and court attendants and roving court reporters,” Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk Mary Harris said April 1. “We don’t have any that are paid by the state.”

No cuts are being made in Harris’ office, she said.

No cuts are being made to the staffs of the county’s four Circuit judges, court administrator Jennifer Nalu said.

“We’re already as lean as we can be,” Nalu said. “We’re working with less than minimum staff, less than what the state recommends.”

Presiding Circuit Judge Hewitt “Sonny” Conwill said “there’s really not too many alternatives they (the state) have with us.”

“They have to give us a court reporter and judicial assistant,” Conwill added. “I think they understand the load (Shelby County’s) court system has.”

Though safe for May 1, Harris said her clerk’s office likely would be affected by a possible Oct. 1 layoff “unless further funds are forthcoming.”

“Unless they do furloughs,” Harris added, “we’re looking at cuts of 250 in clerk’s offices statewide (in October).”

Clerk’s offices were spared from the May 1 layoffs because they “bore the brunt” of layoffs in 2003-04, she said.

The clerk’s office is the least-staffed clerk’s office in the state with 55-percent staffing, said Harris, who oversees what is now a full-time staff of 17. Harris said she is not allowed to replace a full-time employee who recently left.

In addition, Harris said her office employs four temporary workers paid for out of her budget.

“As long as I’ve got funds that are coming into the clerk’s fund, then I’ll keep them (temporary employees) as long as I can.”