The Cultured Scholar's Cataogue

Campaign Blog Post

Why a Successful Court Clerk Doesn't Have to be a Lawyer (Piland 2018)

A local citizen recently asked, How do you think someone with no law degree can succeed as Clerk of Courts?”

I’m glad you asked that question because it’s important to understand the nature of the Clerk of Courts position as well as the skills and qualifications that correspond to it. The duties of Clerk of Courts include juror education, court docket management, documenting receipt of legal documents, budget management, administering of oaths to attorneys and judges, and much more. The skills that apply to this position include customer service, bookkeeping, legal procedure, budgeting, business management, and word processing skills.

None of these duties require a law degree to be fulfilled accurately and with integrity. None of these skills are exclusive to individuals holding a law degree. In fact, these skills and duties are more in alignment with an executive assistant.

Lawyers are trained to be lawyers, not administrators. They represent clients in the court of law and many times go on to become judges who interpret the law. These are noble paths and logically require a legal background, but Clerk of Courts is administration – managing the business of the courts. This is not the focus of legal professionals. Any passionate citizen with basic administrative and business management skills as well as general knowledge of the laws and court system of America can take up the task.

Considering that all Americans learn government, the constitution, and the basics of law and process beginning in elementary school, any American citizen is qualified to not only run for but also hold public office, including and especially Clerk of Courts. Our Constitution was designed for this purpose: to keep political power in the hands of the people, not a professional or aristocratic elite. While it is beneficial to hold a law degree in any elected position, it is not required, and any suggestion that only a lawyer is capable of serving the people of Martha’s Vineyard and Dukes County is disingenuous and un-American.

A person may be a good lawyer but he or she may not be the best candidate to become the Clerk of Courts. My training has been in the field of administration and management, and that is what is needed for this job. Although my experience is with the Medical Community, the analytical and research skills gained with this profession are easily transferable to the court system. 

Furthermore, medical professionals serving in public office is not a foreign concept. Benjamin Rush, the “Father of American Psychiatry,” was Vice President of American Philosophical Society, a Surgeon General of the Middle Department of the Continental Army, one of the founders of the College of Physicians, and a member of Second Continental Congress as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Senator Rand Paul, M.D., Republican Senator for Kentucky, is an Opthamologist. In 2014, The New York Times published an article naming 17 House and 3 Senate candidates who were physicians “trading in their white coats” for one of the most stressful jobs on the planet – U.S. public office.

Physicians have served in the highest public positions of our country. It is not difficult to envision a Physician’s Assistant transitioning to serving as a court clerk. The common thread between politicians, court professionals, and healthcare professionals is a passion for diagnosing problems and providing practical solutions. As it pertains to Dukes County Superior Court, I intend to do just that and am qualified to do so.

Being a lawyer does not in and of itself qualify anyone to become a Clerk of Courts. My previous experience in administration and management within the Medical Community make me more than qualified to run the court system. I am a professional administrator and have the skills, attitudes and knowledge to become your next Clerk of Courts.