A circuit clerk is an administrator for a circuit court. These members of the judicial branch of government act as the keepers of the records for the court. Anything which is seen in court hits the desk of the circuit clerk first, and anyone who wishes to do research about cases which have been seen in court must visit the clerk. Classically, these officials are elected by the voters, for terms of lengths which vary, depending on the region, with four to six year terms being very common.
Anyone who wants to file a case must submit it to the circuit clerk. The clerk inspects civil, criminal, juvenile, and probate filings to confirm that they are complete, and opens up a record on each filing which will be used to track the filing as it moves through the court. These clerks regularly attend court, or send their assistants to court as their representatives, and they keep copies of documents presented in court, final rulings, and other information. Many keep both electronic and paper records, with some clerks also working to convert old handwritten records into electronic form.
A circuit clerk is also the financial officer of the court in addition to being an administrator. Circuit clerks handle fees which are paid to the court, and disbursements from the court, keeping records on monies which have moved through the court. They may also act as collections agents, or contract out collection work to companies which specialize in such work so that they can collect past-due fees owed to the court.
In many regions, the circuit clerk also keeps the Seal of the Court, and may be involved in court proceedings such as the reading of the verdict in addition to keeping records. The circuit court clerk is usually assisted by a team of employees, as the work in even a small court can be overwhelming for one person. These court officers also provide information about the court which may be useful to people attending court, ranging from answering questions about court hours to helping people with legal filings.
People who are interested in researching historic court records for any reason work with the circuit clerk to find the documents they need. Some examples of reasons people might want to review old records include: genealogy research, research on historic property lines and boundaries as part of a title search being performed when a piece of real estate being sold, and historical research.