Voters will have an opportunity over the next several months to visit with candidates for a number of offices – and those who have the opportunity to visit with Bossier Parish Clerk of Court candidate Jill Sessions will undoubtedly enjoy both her enthusiasm and her knowledge of the Clerk’s office.
Sessions has worked in the Clerk’s office for eight years; she also has 12 year’s experience in the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office civil department, a handy combination if one aspires to the office of Clerk of Court.
“ … In my opinion, all legal aspects either begin or end with the Clerk’s office,” Sessions said. We’re either issuing the paperwork to start with or getting those charged with criminal offenses their subpoenas to get to court or filing the charges or keeping up with the evidence – we do it all. We record the mortgages in the conveyances … we keep all the files.”
Sessions went on to detail a long list of the Clerk of Court’s responsibilities which include, but aren’t limited to: the filing of all civil suits, handling all elections, serving on the Jury Commission, and serving as the Court’s administrative arm for jury trials. From the trail aspect, Sessions explained that the Clerk draws up the jury pool, greets potential jury members as they sign in and shows the video on jury service. The other side of the Clerk’s responsibility during jury trials includes swearing in witnesses, taking the trial minutes and safekeeping of all evidence admitted at trial. And that evidence safekeeping is forever, Sessions emphasized.
In addition to all the civil and criminal responsibilities of the Clerk’s office, Sessions explained that serving as chief elections officer for the parish is a major responsibility. While the Police Jury determines the location of voting precincts, the Clerk’s office handles ensuring that each precinct has the requisite number of commissioners to serve voters, validates the votes at the time of an election and qualifies election results.
On the civil side of the Clerk’s house, Sessions was emphatic about the need for the next Clerk to have a complete understanding of different civil law aspects that sometimes include a multitude of steps to complete an action.
“People may not understand the steps we have to complete, and if we miss one, we have to start over – plus there is always a potential liability factor for the Clerk’s office if we miss a step,” Sessions said.
While the above enumeration is the short list of what Sessions described as the multi-faceted work and responsibility of the Clerk’s office, she also has a list of areas of service she would look to expand.
“I would like to bring in e-filings, to make it easier (for attorneys).”
The benefit, said Sessions, is that attorneys would not have to visit the Clerk’s office to file; instead they could simply file online. She said that a few Clerk’s offices currently accept e-filings and that the Bossier Parish Clerk’s office has the capacity to do so as well.
“I’d like to do birth certificates,” Sessions said. “There’s nobody in Caddo or Bossier Parishes who do the birth certificates,” she noted, and suggested that she’d entertain working with the passport application process as a public service.
And according to Sessions, one of the not-so-affordable services that’s been suggested is a satellite Clerk’s office in Bossier City. Sessions explained that such an office would need more than one or two deputy clerks.
“You can’t just put somebody there who knows a little bit of this and that,” she said.
Sessions explained that between personnel costs, equipment and location expenses, the cost of providing such a location could easily exceed the Clerk’s budget which has historically been underwritten by costs and fees charged by the office – which does not collect any taxes.
“I know I’m the most qualified for this job,” Sessions said, “and we have a great group of women to work with,” she said of the staff of 35 fulltime and two part-time members of the Clerk’s staff.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at email@example.com