Despite its vital role in local government, the Muscogee County Superior Court Clerk’s office rarely made the news, until a few years ago.
A few years ago, then-Clerk Linda Pierce was among local elected officials who sued the city over their budgets, claiming Columbus Council illegally cut them.
The office made news again when Pierce lost in 2016 to Ann Hardman, who took office Jan. 3, 2017. Hardman dropped the lawsuit.
The office hit the headlines again when Hardman died this past March 19.
The Superior Court Clerk holds some of the county’s most crucial records. When pipes burst in the Government Center, among the first concerns are the deed books in the clerk’s office on the second floor.
Besides property documentation, the office stores and tracks all the civil records, the divorces and lawsuits and so forth, and all the criminal cases that come and go, and sometimes come back.
Since Hardman’s unexpected death, Shasta Thomas Glover has been the clerk, sworn in after serving as Hardman’s chief deputy.
She faces a challenge from Danielle Forte, a prosecutor with the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.
The Ledger Enquirer asked each candidate to cite three priorities, should she win this special election that voters must go to the end of their ballots to find, after proposed constitutional amendments and other state referenda.
In the order the candidates appear on the ballot, Forte is first.
Forte is 49, and graduated from Hardaway High School and Spelman College, and got her law degree from the Emory University School of Law. She has worked as an attorney for the federal government in Atlanta and currently serves as an assistant district attorney in the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.
Her response was edited for brevity. Here are her priorities:
(1) To Provide User Friendly Clerk Services with an emphasis on customer service to both the legal and at-large community.
I know the duties of clerk are not fixed but are rather fluid. The clerk must know and keep abreast of the laws and rules that govern operations of superior courts around the state. An example of that is the mandatory civil e-filing presented in Senate Bill 407 which prohibits paper filings on or after January 1, 2019 for attorneys or self-represented (pro se) litigants. One of my goals is to expand on-line services so that customers of the office can perform more duties on-line rather than in line at the clerk’s office.
(2) To Bring Efficiency and Excellence to the Clerk’s Office coupled with an impeccable work ethic. Under my administration the clerk’s office will strive to provide the best in amenities and services.
One example of providing leading amenities and services is the implementation of a public records search. When researching clerks’ offices throughout the state, I discovered a majority of the state counties are using a system called Peachcourt to e-file and access documents. Muscogee county only has the e-filing portion of that website NOT the availability to view documents. Without the view documents functions, we are NOT providing the best service to Muscogee County residents.
Additionally, counties of comparable size and demographics to Muscogee County, such as Savannah and Macon, have the capability for the general public to access document entries filed in their clerks’ offices via web-based services. Those using the clerk’s office can obtain that information prior to visiting the clerk’s office. My goal will be to implement new technologies designed to improve public accessibility to public courts.
Lastly, based on my experience with juvenile court, I would like to implement a community outreach program geared toward helping the youth in our community. There are ways to partner with other agencies to serve our community and I am aware of the need to promote and support organizations and programs designed to assist children in need, such as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
(3) To Bring A High Standard of Competence to the Clerk’s Office with over 20 years of legal experience with both state and federal clerks’ offices throughout the southeast region.
I am aware that having a Superior Court Clerk who is an attorney is not a requirement but it is definitely a very STRONG asset. With over 20 years of legal experience, I know the clerk’s office is the nerve center of our judicial system and having a clerk with legal experience will be a tremendous asset to the office and citizens of Muscogee County.
Shasta Thomas Glover
Glover at 63 is a veteran of the criminal justice system. She started as a police officer in 1983 and retired as director of the Aaron Cohn Regional Youth Detention Center in 2013.
She graduated from Spencer High School and attended Fort Valley State University for four years before starting as a police officer and later getting a bachelor’s degree from Troy University. She became a juvenile intake officer in the 1990s and worked her way up to youth detention center director.
Here are her top three priorities:
As Clerk of Superior Court, I am committed to the continuance of great leadership and structure currently existing in the Superior Court Clerk’s Office of Muscogee County. I am a bold, principled leader who has the integrity and conviction to run a Clerk’s Office that is continuously better serving the people of Muscogee County.
(2) Customer Service.
I understand, it is imperative that the clerk’s office continues to demonstrate a high level of efficient customer service (both internally and externally) in our day-to-day operation. As it relates to internal customer service, I plan to continue to enhance the great rapport and morale established among my staff of 40 deputy clerks. I will continue to maintain a cooperative relationship with all seven Superior Court judges, our two State Court judges, our district attorney’s office, the solicitor’s office, the sheriff’s department, attorneys as well as the citizens of this county.
Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to spearhead several technological advancement projects throughout the clerk’s office in a very short period of time. These projects include the implementation of the first electronic filing system (via Odyssey EfileGA) for civil and domestic cases in Muscogee County, the installation of an electronic payment processing system as well as the acquisition of a new more modern copying system for the county’s deed room.
Here are brief biographies of each candidate:
Name: Danielle F. Forte
Occupation: Assistant District Attorney
Education: Graduated Emory University School of Law, 1995; Spelman College, magna cum laude, 1991; Hardaway High School, 1987.
Experience: Civil defense lawyer 1995-2001 (Atlanta); Social Security Administration, federal administrative appeals attorney/special assistant to U. S. Attorney (Georgia/Florida), 2001-2008 (Atlanta); currently assistant district attorney, felony crime prosecutor, child support establishment prosecutor, Juvenile Court prosecutor.
Name: Shasta Thomas Glover
Profession: Clerk of Superior Court.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Troy University; attended Fort Valley State University; graduated Spencer High School, 1974.
Experience: Sworn in as Superior Court clerk upon clerk Ann Hardman’s death March 19, 2018; chief deputy clerk for Hardman Jan. 3, 2017-March 19; director of the Aaron Cohn Regional Youth Detention Center, 2011-2013; Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit multiservice center manager, 2007-2011; assistant director, Cohn Youth Detention Center, 2004-2007; juvenile detention counselor, 1997-2004; juvenile intake officer, 1994-1997; Columbus police officer, 1983-1994.