Actually, I love working the customer counter whenever I get assigned to it. If a customer asks us to do something that I cannot do, I have no problem telling them that I cannot help them with that situation. Most of the time I can simply tell them that as an officer of the court, the Arizona Revised Statutes clearly state that I cannot answer that question or accomodate that request.
One of the most frequent questions we get is "what should I do in my situation?" In that case, I have to inform the customer that the Constitution of the State of Arizona prohibits court clerks from doing anything that might be construed as giving legal advice. Furthermore, the determination of what constitutes "giving legal advice" is left to each clerk to define. This is a rare situation in which the individual clerk is the ultimate arbitor and rarely does the customer win if the situation is taken to a supervisor. Since this is a legal prohibition, the supervisors err on the side of caution which inevitably means backing the clerk. If you come in with a chip on your shoulder, most likely you will have a bad experiance.
Also, we are prohibited from giving any assistance to any party when it comes to filling out papers or forms. There are legal implications to consider plus it would be unethical. We can, however, answer questions about court processes and general questions about matters such as Dissolution of Marriage, filing fees, passport applications or Orders of Protection/Injunctions Against Harassment (restraining orders).
Some of the stuff I deal with is worse that any of you might imagine. One of my duties is to work the Domestic Violence desk, processing petitions for restraining orders (Orders of Protection/Injunctions Against Harassment in the State of Arizona). Part of the job involves taking the petitioners up to court to see the judge and we hear all sorts of stories. Most of the stories are rathar run of the mill but every so often we hear some real horror stories. In some cases, the petition is denied as the evidence presented does not permit the judge to issue an order. In most cases, the evidence does permit the judge to issue the order and we then have to process the papers and direct the plaintiff as to what they need to do to have the order served on the defendant and what they need to do to ensure their safety. This week looks to be off to a bad start-had eight petitions today. We have a full moon later this week and then the Superbowl so it looks like it will be a busy couple of weeks for me as the wife-beaters will be at their worst over the weekend.
The one thing that I as an officer of the court have to keep in mind is that I cannot solve the customer's problems. In our business, only the customer can solve his or her problem. All we can do is execute our duties as accurately and efficiently, whether it be processing paperwork or informing them of resources that are available (legal aid, domestic violence assistance, etc.). All we can do is point them to the tools and hope they take advantage of them.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."