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Clerk’s Corner: Clerk updates residents about court matters

By Rick Francis

Hello friends,

For some time, I have been wanting to start a feature in The Tidewater News to let you know what’s happening at the Courthouse and to discuss many of the “interesting finds” that are tucked away in our records which date back to the creation of Southampton County in 1749. I believe that we live as long as we are remembered and among the records are thousands of stories needing to be told. I will start today by letting you know what we’ve been doing at the Courthouse during this COVID-19 pandemic. Just last Monday, the Supreme Court extended the ‘judicial emergency’ through June 28.

Rick Francis

Deemed “essential,”, we have been at work every day, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. handling time-critical matters.

In the criminal arena, Court has convened to address matters involving someone’s freedom; bond hearings and appointment of counsel — with appearances of defendants by video from the local or regional jails. On the civil side, Court has considered protective orders and the appointments of guardians and conservators.

We have:

• pursued our project back-scanning of old files, having digitized more than 7,500 pounds of paper; worked weekends in the office installing Lexan barriers to better protect the public/staff; and running CAT6a cable over the suspended ceiling to relocate computer/printer to our lobby;

• relocated equipment in the office to compel “social distancing;”

• developed the ability for staff to work from home, if self-quarantine is required;

• provided free on-line access to attorneys and title companies to facilitate land transfers;

• installed a drop-off and a pick-up box next to parking lot to minimize direct contact;

• moved to include Apple Pay for no contact payments when the Courthouse is opened;

• the ability to pay Court Costs and Restitution on-line using the VA Judiciary Online Payment system;

• initiated E-Recording of land records on-line;

• initiated E-Filing of civil pleadings on-line, all accomplished by visiting www.courts.state.va.us

• continued to process marriage licenses, deed requests, and may other duties, by calls to our office and our delivering the request by mail/e-mail or delivery at the door. Call 653-2200;

• referred [passport requests to the proper contact as the Passport Office is still closed in Washington. Once they reopen, we will resume passport processing by appointment to maintain social distancing;

• relocated positions in the courtroom to compel social distancing and provide some comfort for those compelled to attend court. Masks are still required to enter.

Genealogists can explore our records from 1749 to early 1880s on-line with our Brantley & Hatfield search tools … with a new enhancement coming soon.

Attorneys can access our criminal and civil digital case files through on-line access.

While our office does not handle traffic or juvenile matters, if you need something related to wills, divorce, deeds, felony matters, lawsuits or marriage licenses, call us at 653-2200 and we will try to meet your needs without your having to enter the Courthouse. This protocol will continue even after the Governor’s and the Supreme Court’s restrictions have expired. My staff and I are committed to serving you … in a safe manner.

Stay healthy, everyone. You want to explore our records, not become one.