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Historical Information About the Office of Clerk of Courts
The Florida Constitution of 1838 created the Clerk of the Circuit Court as a Public Trustee. On February 8, 1861, the Legislature of the State of Florida established Polk County.
The 1973 Florida Constitution created a unified Clerk of the Circuit Court after abolition of the Clerk of the Criminal Court of Record. Polk County has had Three Clerks of the Circuit Court since 1973:
- January 2013 - Present, Stacy Butterfield
- August 1997 - January 2013, Richard M. Weiss
- January 1973 - August 1997, E.D. "Bud" Dixon
The State Legislature created the Criminal Court of Record in 1923. The following served as Clerk of the Criminal Court of Record for Polk County:
- January 1969 - January 1973, E.D. "Bud" Dixon
- April 1968 - January 1969, Warren O. Williams
- January 1953 - February 1968, Robert Jacob Haslett
- January 1933 - January 1953, Benjamin Lucian Durrance
- October 1925 - January 1933, Loyd Clyde Olive
- August 1923 - October 1925, Richard Webb Robnett
The following served as Clerks of the Circuit Court of Polk County as created by the Florida Constitution of 1838:
- 1965 - January 1973, Paul H. Vaughn
- January 1937 - 1965, Daniel Henry Sloan, Jr.
- January 1921- January 1937, John Derieux Raulerson
- January 1912 - January 1921, James Allison Johnson
- 1899 - January 1912, Aaron Browning Ferguson
- 1885 - December 1898, William Hampton Johnson
- 1881 - January 1885, Stephen Irving Pearce
- 1877 - 1881, William Baker Varn
- March 1873 - 1877, Nathan Snow Blount
- January 1869 - March 1873, John Davidson
- January 1866 - January 1869, William Baker Varn
- January 1863 - January 1866, Jeremiah Madison Hayman
- November 1861 - January 1863, Jehu Jacob Blount
Departments in the Clerk's Office
The role of the General Counsel is to provide legal advice to the Polk County Clerk of Courts & County Comptroller to insure that the Clerk’s Office operations are carried out in accordance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. In doing so, the General Counsel represents the Clerk in court, conducts legal research and contract review on behalf of the Clerk, offers legal opinions to the Clerk, provides training to Clerk’s staff and interprets newly enacted laws on behalf of the Clerk’s Office.
The Human Resources Department for the Clerk of Courts is located in the Courthouse in Bartow. This department is responsible for performing all Human Resources functions for the Clerk’s Office, including recruitment, benefit administration, classification and compensation administration, training and development, employee relations, plus compliance with policies, as well as compliance with state and federal laws governing employment.
The Information Technology Services Department is responsible for specific systems at the Clerk’s Office. These systems include DRD (Casey), Circuit and County Civil New Vision, Official Records New Vision, Felony New Vision (PICS), Circuit Criminal Appeals and Bonds, Fixed Assets, Tax Deeds, Marriage, Passports, Jury Management, Attorney Registry, and ancillary applications that support the Office operations, as well as user desktop support, including printing services.
Backup recovery services, server maintenance, and user education are also on our list of services.
The Inspector General Department is responsible for conducting independent, objective audits of County operations and functions under the authority of the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The department performs a wide range of internal audits including financial and administrative controls, operational performance, public service tax revenues, management information systems, and statutory compliance. Internal Audit also provides investigative services and internal control related consultation to County management as authorized by the Clerk, and assists the County’s external auditors (CPAs) with their year-end financial audit of Polk County by performing various reviews and evaluations as assigned by the external auditors.
The Civil Law Department handles all cases which involve monetary judgment, injunctions, declaratory judgments, mortgage foreclosures, negligence, professional malpractice and other matters where a claimant may be made whole by receiving a money judgment.
Cases are filed in Small Claims Court when the amount in controversy is $5,000 or less, County General Civil when the amount is more than $5,000 but less than $15,000 and in Circuit Court when the amount is $15,000 or more.
Clerk staff may assist customers with filing questions, processes, forms, instructional materials and references when cases are filed in Small Claims Court, but are generally able only to provide minimal assistance, under current law and Court Rules, with filing questions in General Civil or Circuit Court Civil.
The Domestic Relations Department is the official record keeper of court ordered child support and alimony accounts, maintaining the database and monitoring all payments, which are processed by the State Disbursement Unit in Tallahassee. Payment information can be accessed by calling 1-877-769-0251 or by visiting myfloridacounty.com.
The Family Law Department handles dissolutions of marriage, child support, paternity, civil injunctions for domestic, repeat, sexual and dating violence, and other family-law related issues. Clerk staff provide assistance to self represented individuals by providing basic information and through referral to the Court’s Self Help Program.
Domestic Violence (including repeat, sexual and dating violence) petitioners are assisted through the process of filing for an Injunction for Protection, by a specially trained Domestic Violence Team. Continuing support for the parties includes providing information regarding court attendance, referral information and assistance with filing subsequent petitions for dismissal, modification, enforcement and affidavits of violation relating to the Injunctions. These cases are handled only in the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow and the main number for Domestic Violence is 863-534-4180.
This department handles dependency cases. Dependency cases are brought on behalf of children under the age of 18 who have been abused, abandoned, neglected, or mistreated in some other manner. The Department works closely with the Department of Children and Families, the Judiciary, State Attorney, Public Defender, law enforcement agencies, Office of the Guardian ad Litem, and many other agencies. Juvenile dependency records are confidential by Florida law and are kept separate from all other records.
The Probate Department maintains court records of the estates of deceased persons, trusts, appointments of guardians of minors, incapacitated persons and adults who voluntarily request the appointment of a guardian of their property. Records are kept pertaining to mental health cases consisting of involuntary examinations and placements under the Baker Act, substance abuse cases pursuant to the Marchman Act, involuntary treatment for tuberculosis, adult protective cases and expedited judicial intervention concerning medical treatment procedures. The Probate Division also prepares petitions and issues delayed birth certificates.
Circuit Criminal (Felony)
The Felony Department of the Clerk of Circuit Court's Office keeps records for the court system primarily related to felony offenses, but can also include misdemeanor and criminal traffic charges. A felony criminal offense is one for which punishment can range from felony probation to death. Imprisonment for a felony offense in a state penitentiary is a sentence in excess of (1) one year.
Currently, this department keeps records for six full-time Circuit-Criminal Court Divisions; one circuit judge who hears matters relating to violation of probation and community control cases; and one circuit judge who hears First Degree Murder cases.
The Collections Enforcement Department collects fines and court costs for misdemeanor, criminal traffic, felony, civil infractions and county and municipal ordinances. Fines and court costs are due at the time of sentencing. Defendants must report to Collections Enforcement immediately after court. Qualified defendants may apply for a payment plan. A sworn application is completed and reviewed, and individual interviews are conducted. The cases are then monitored by the Collections Enforcement Officers for compliance.
The County Court Criminal Department is one of the largest single court related section within the Clerk's Office. This department handles all misdemeanors and criminal traffic violations which have a maximum penalty of one year or less in the county jail. The responsibilities for this department also include, but are not limited to, processing violations of county and municipal ordinances, civil traffic infractions along with misdemeanors that occur in conjunction with a civil traffic infraction (resisting arrest, etc.) and overdue parking tickets.
The Clerk is responsible for calendaring county court criminal cases for court, attending each court session and recording disposition of the Court. In addition, the Clerk has responsibility for reporting dispositions on all traffic cases, including non-court required appearances on civil traffic infractions, and placing driver’s license suspensions on citations when the violations have not been satisfied in a timely manner.
The Clerk of Court is authorized by Florida Statute to reinstate the driver’s license and privilege to drive through direct access with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles when a person complies with all obligations and penalties imposed. The Clerk is able to enter the reinstatement on the record while the person is being served. A reinstatement fee may be imposed.
This department handles delinquency cases which are cases that are brought against children under the age of 18 because they have committed a criminal offense or other misconduct. The Juvenile Delinquency Department works closely with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Judiciary, State Attorney, Public Defender, law enforcement agencies, and many other agencies. Delinquency records are confidential by Florida law and are kept separate from all other records.
Comptroller to the BoCC
Constitutional functions of the Clerk, which are performed in the Finance Department, include Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners, County Finance Officer, and custodian of all county funds. In the role of County Finance Officer, the Clerk serves as the chief financial officer for the county with responsibility for keeping records and preparing required reports of all moneys received and disbursed by the Board of County Commissioners. As custodian of county funds, the Clerk of the Circuit Court has the responsibility for the collection, custody, disbursement of the funds, and investments. As Chief Financial Officer, the Clerk maintains an accurate and complete set of financial records which enable all required financial statements and reports to be produced in compliance with legal requirements and generally accepted accounting principles as mandated by various state and federal laws. In addition, the Department audits the payroll for the Board of County Commissioner's employees.
The Finance Department is charged with the responsibility to insure that all county financial assets are safeguarded against unauthorized use or disposition and that all transactions are properly recorded to permit the preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. The Finance Department pre-audits expenditures of the Board of County Commissioners prior to the actual payment of invoices. This review insures that there is supporting documentation to justify the expenditure, that the expenditure is reasonable, and serves a legitimate public purpose.
As ex-officio Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners, the Clerk's staff attends meetings and workshops of the Board of County Commissioners and their committees.
The Clerk's Accounting and Fiscal Department collects and disburses all monies for the Clerk of the Circuit Court, maintaining the financial records for the general fund, special revenue funds, and trust and agency funds. Data is recorded, receipted and entered into both our accounting system and subsidiary systems such as the Traffic system.
Over $110 million is receipted and disbursed per year. These funds include fines and costs in Circuit and County Courts as well as all other filing fees, charges, documentary stamps, and intangible tax collections. Fines and forfeitures are remitted to the various municipalities, law enforcement agencies, the Board of County Commissioners and the State of Florida. Most fine and forfeiture monies are disbursed on a monthly basis. The department is responsible for the disbursement of jury and witness payments. Monies are held for the Registry of the Court, Condemnation, Bonds, Tax Deeds, Restitution, Small Claims, and state agencies. The funds are disbursed as the cases are resolved and the court orders the disbursements.
The department is also responsible for preparation and monitoring of the budget. The Clerk's budget is prepared in two parts, one for those expenditures paid by the Board of County Commissioners and one for the Clerk as a fee officer. On or before May 1 of each year, the Clerk submits to the Board of County Commissioners a tentative budget for expenditures to be paid by the Board of County Commissioners on behalf of the Clerk. Prior to September 1 of each the Clerk files the State and the Board of County Commissioners the complete budget for the following fiscal year. The Clerk's total general fund budget for the fiscal year 1998 is approximately $12 million.
Value Adjustment Board
The Value Adjustment Board (VAB) was created by Florida Statutes and consists of two members of the Board of County Commissioners, one member of the School Board, and two private citizens. The Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners is also the Clerk to the Value Adjustment Board. Petitions may be filed with the VAB in appeal of decisions made by the Property Appraiser. Petition forms are filed with the the Clerk to the VAB, after which hearings are held by Special Magistrates appointed by the VAB and results forwarded to the petitioners. Deadline dates are determined by Florida Statutes.
Lakeland and Northeast Branches
The role of the Branch Offices are to provide extended services offered by the Clerk in the following departments:
- Filings of Civil Law cases (small claims, evictions, general civil, circuit civil, mortgage foreclosures, negligence, etc). Small Claim hearings are held in the Branch Office in which the case is filed. Hearings for all other case types will be held in the Bartow Office.
Domestic Relations (child support):
- Provide child support printouts for cases filed in Polk County
- Filings of Family Law cases (divorce, modification, paternity, adoption, name change, etc). All hearings for these case types are held in the Bartow Office.
- Issue marriage license applications.
- Perform wedding ceremonies.
- Process passport applications
- Record documents into the Official Records (deeds, mortgages, notice of commencements, etc)
- Oath to Witness of Will
- Proof of Will
- Accept payments on all Polk County traffic citations, misdemeanor and criminal traffic cases not in outside collections.
- Provide driving histories for Florida license only.
- Reinstate drivers license and privilege when a person complies with all obligations and penalties imposed. A reinstatement fee may be required.
- The Clerk's Office issues marriage licenses, performs ceremonies and records the license into the public records after the ceremony, and send the original license to the Office of Vital Statistics.
- Customers can obtain copies of their marriage license from our office provided that it was issued in Polk County.
- The Clerk's Office serves as a Passport Acceptance Agent for the U.S. Department of State, reviewing, processing, and submitting applications to the Passport Agency.
The Official Records department records documents into the public records according to Florida Statute 28.222.
Customers can obtain copies or view documents from microfilm that were recorded in 1861 to 1956 in our office. Documents recorded 1957 to current are available by images in our office or on our website.
The Records Department provides microfilm and digital copies of Civil and Criminal Records. This department provides copies of plats, civil records, and criminal records to the public for review in Support Services. Copies of these records are provided for sale to the public at the statutory fee. Microfilm copies of Court Records are also stored with the Department of State, Bureau of Archives
The Support Services Department includes Jury, as well as the functions of Records, Central Information, Mail, and Evidence. The Jury department is responsible for tracking large groups of prospective jurors throughout the jury selection process, as well as maintaining records and statistics of potential jurors. Records ensures court records are received, stored, made available for public view, released and destroyed according to Florida Statutes and the Clerk of Court procedures and guidelines. Central information provides court dates, times, place, and general information as requested and assists the public in determining their needs. The mailroom ensures daily mail service to courthouse personnel and various other agencies as well as providing a courier service to our branch offices, city and county offices. Evidence ensures that evidence is properly received, processed, stored, released and destroyed according to the Florida Statutes and the Clerk of Court procedures and guidelines.
Property with unpaid property taxes for 2 years or longer can be submitted by the Tax Collector to the Tax Deeds Office for auction. The process takes 3 months from submittal of the application to the actual auctioning of that property. Auctions are held the third Thursday of each month, online at www.polk.realtaxdeed.com. The minimum bid for each property at the auction is the amount needed to pay the outstanding taxes, interest on those taxes, and fees incurred in the sale of the property. Property that is not sold at the time of the auction is placed on Lands Available in the Tax Deed Office for a period of time set by law.
Please Note: It is the responsibility of each individual to research each property before deciding to bid at an auction or purchase property from Lands Available.