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Elections 2016

Court Clerk Candidates Debate Over Fees

Leon County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Bob Inzer
Leon County Circuit Court

There are four candidates vying to be Leon County’s next clerk of court. Earlier this week, some of them shared their views on the powers of the office.

Some of those candidates want to put a stop to court fees they say hurt low income residents.

However, assigning these fees isn't a part of their jurisdiction. That's decided by the Florida State Legislature.

“All of the money that we accept in the clerk’s office is dictated by statute as to where that money goes," says Gypsy Bailey, the general counsel and director of courts for Bob Inzer-Leon County’s outgoing clerk of court. 

"The legislature is the one that puts into statute that will say, ‘Okay, here’s how much a ticket is.’ Then they’ll say, ‘Of the ticket, here’s where the money goes.'”

One of the candidates, Barry Brooks, says he would like state lawmakers to be more open to lowering fees.

“I will do what the legislature tells us to do," Brooks says, who has been backed by Inzer for the position. "But I would hope that they would consider another source of funds to allow our office to serve the public.”

Fellow candidate Bill Bogan argues that before talking about court fees, there needs to be a better relationship between clerks, judges and legislators.

He says the actions of some court clerks and judges has hurt the argument that those clerks should have greater say over fees.

“The thing is, you’ve got to get a legislature in there that’s sympathetic to what’s going on in the courts," Bogan says. "First thing that’s got to happen is the clerks have got to clean up their act all around the state in order to even get a sympathetic ear.”

Meanwhile, Gwendolyn Marshall has a slightly different approach. She says she wants to reach out to Leon county voters.

“I believe if the public knows how these fees are established, maybe we can get an outpouring or assistance when we go down to the legislature," Marshall says.

But Franklin Ayetin, the lone republican in the race, says some of the costs can be alleviated.

“The candidates talking about these fees hurting people probably should be a little more specific," Ayetin says. "Some of those fees can be waved if you can’t afford to pay them, some of those court filing fees.”

The conversation regarding court fees is not new. County clerks throughout the state have struggled to gain funding.

In recent years, even as their workloads have increased, the Broward County court clerk is suing the legislature over this issue.