Lee Clerk of Courts lauds new technology
Lee County Clerk of Courts Linda Doggett is a proponent of technology, which is why she is trying to make her office the most customer friendly office possible, whether it be to help you find personal records to getting documents online of any court case that has been on the docket.
That is what she told North Fort Myers business leaders Wednesday during the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Smoke ‘n Pit.
But while she praised her department’s open book policy, she did not have positive comments on the possible loss of one of its tools to make sure people pay their fines and child support.
Doggett explained her job to people, to handle and protect the records of all things Lee County that effect everyone’s lives. They also collect fines, do passports, and countless other things.
“Just about everything we do is represented on our website, from foreclosure sales, tax deed sales, court records, case information and official records,” Doggett said, but she also added the way people see court cases in the future will change.
People can now look up people online to see if they have any criminal or civil cases against them to help people make better decisions.
“If you want to research someone you want to do business with, and you want to make sure they don’t have a prior record, you can check throughout several counties to see if they have a record or a civil judgment against them,” Doggett said. “Just because their name comes up on a record, doesn’t mean they were convicted. You can look at the case and see.”
The documents have redactions to remove Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, victim names, etc
Doggett’s office also collects fees and fines from the 150,000 cases per year the court hears, from traffic to foreclosures to criminal, for which they serve as the collection agency for.
Failure to pay can result in the suspension of your driver’s license. However, Doggett complained about the bill (that was co-sponsored by Dane Eagle) that made its way through the Florida House that would have prohibited the suspension of person’s driver license solely for failure to pay penalty if person demonstrates inability to pay.
That bill died in committee on March 11, but that bill could have had ramifications to Lee County had it passed. It could have meant a loss of millions annually to county coffers.
“It’s the only tool that’s effective in paying fines. We have law personnel giving out citations, the courts assess fines and we are expected to collect it and they take away the only tool we have,” Doggett said. “There are no consequences and there needs to be. Otherwise, why bother?”
Doggett said there are options, such as to do community service or come up with a payment plan if money is short or if you have no job.