County Clerk (Office of the County Clerk)
The office of Clerk of the County Court, or County Clerk's office, has been in existence since 1836, when it superseded the office of escribano of Spanish and Mexican Texas. The escribano served as the clerk of court and notary public in Spanish municipalities. During the days of the Republic of Texas and early statehood, the office of the County Clerk was a statutory one. The Constitution of 1866 elevated it to constitutional status, but the newly acquired rank was short-lived. The office was abolished under the Constitution of 1869 and the duties of the County Clerk were assumed by the District Clerk in each county. The office was restored in the Constitution of 1876, and it was specified that the County Clerk was to be elected biennially. In 1954, a constitutional amendment changed the term of office to four years. The Texas County Clerk performs duties that in most other states are divided among two or more officials. The Clerk is the county recorder, and as such, accepts for filing and recording a wide variety of documents from deeds to marriage licenses to cattle brands. The Clerk is also clerk to the County Court, a court of limited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters, but the principal court for probate matters, and clerk to the Commissioners Court, the governing body of a county. The County Clerk also conducts county-wide special and general elections and early voting for county-wide elections. Most of the current duties of the office stem from an 1846 law that required County Clerks to record “all deeds, mortgages, conveyances, deeds of trust, bonds, covenants, defeasances, or other instruments of writing, of or concerning any lands, and tenements, or goods and chattels, or moveable property of any description...” Today, the majority of the duties still pertain to the receipt, custody and issuance of a wide array of documents, instruments, certificates, licenses and other official papers, including birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, real estate instruments, subdivision maps and plats, financial records, elected officials’ monthly reports, federal and state tax liens, abstract judgments, juvenile records and military records. The County Clerk also handles probate records, mental/chemical dependency proceeding records, and doing business under assumed names. All county officials who are required to execute a bond before undertaking the duties of office must have their bond kept and recorded in the county clerk’s office. Other responsibilities include maintaining deed records, deeds of trust, liens and abstracts. Identification methods for all livestock must be recorded with the clerk of the county in which the animals are located. As the clerk of the County Courts at Law, the County Clerk works with judges, families, defendants and jurors. These courts include at law probate courts, mental health courts, juvenile courts and county criminal courts. The Clerk's duties in these courts are varied and include filing cases, issuing processes, maintaining minutes of proceedings, collecting costs and fines, and arranging for commitments and appeals. Jurisdictional transfers between county and district courts are also handled by the County Clerk’s office. As clerk for the Commissioners Court, the County Clerk or designated representative is required to attend all sessions and record all proceedings. The office is also charged with keeping all books, papers, records and effects belonging to the Commissioners Court. Other duties may include assisting the County Judge in preparing the court agenda and posting notice for each court meeting.