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Yakima County Clerk

The legal duties of the elected County Clerk are identified in Chapter 36.23 Revised Code Of Washington and Article IV, Section 26 of the Washington State Constitution.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Clerk

  • Administrator of Court Records and Exhibits
  • Financial Officer of the Courts
  • Quasi-Judicial Officer
  • Ex-Officio Clerk of the Court
  • Records Maintained by the County Clerk

Overview

The County Clerk is an elected position as provided by the Washington State Constitution. The responsibilities of the County Clerk are assigned by statute, State and local rules. The County Clerk is the administrator of the County Clerk’s Office and the executive officer of the Superior Court.

The role of the Clerk’s Office is to serve citizens involved with the Yakima County Superior Court system and to support the Superior Court system by receiving and processing court documents, assisting in court proceedings, maintaining court files, records and exhibits, and for the receipting of fees, fines, court ordered payments and disbursing funds.

The Office of County Clerk was established to provide the public with access to a fair, accurate and independently established record of the opinions, decisions and judgments of the judiciary. By fulfilling this mission, the County Clerk helps to ensure the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

Specific functions of the Clerk’s Office include serving as executive officer for the court, custodian of all court records and exhibits, manager of the jury system, quasi-judicial officer for issuance of writs and subpoenas, and providing public access to court records.

Administrator of Court Records and Exhibits
All documents filed in a Superior Court cause of action are processed and maintained by the Clerk. The process involves assigning case numbers to new cases, classifying records, computer data entry, scanning and indexing in the optical imaging system and manual filing of hard copies.

Financial Officer of the Courts

The Clerk, as agent of the Court, collects statutory fees, fines and trust funds. The trust accounts, for money received, are maintained by the Clerk. An accounting system is set up for receipting and disbursing money in accordance with the Washington State Auditor’s guidelines,

Quasi-Judicial Officer
The Clerk exercises quasi-judicial functions in connection with issuance of writs, subpoenas, warrants, letters testamentary, etc… as a consequence of some court orders.

Ex-Officio Clerk of the Court

The Clerk, as Ex-Officio Clerk Of Court, is required to be present at all court proceedings for the purpose of receiving and marking court documents and exhibits. The Clerk is also charged with creating a separate record of court proceedings.

Records Maintained by the County Clerk

The Clerk’s Office is responsible for maintaining the permanent record of the Superior Court. The records include filings within the following case types:

  • Appeals and Reviews from lower courts of jurisdiction (such as Municipal and County District Courts).
  • Cases involving Criminal activity classified as a felony.
  • Cases involving Civil litigation, such as Contracts & Commercial Agreements, Property Rights, Unlawful Detainers (evictions), Injunctions, Interpleaders, Torts, Malpractice, Damages, Domestic Violence, Appeals Board Records from Washington State agencies, and similar type actions.
  • Domestic Relations / Family Law / Paternity cases such as Legal Separation, Divorce, Non-Parental Custody, Child Custody, and determination of Parentage.
  • Estates – specifically called Probate matters. This includes the filing of Wills for a deceased person and also the ‘depository’ for Wills of living persons.
  • Cases involving Adoptions are also handled by the County Clerk. These cases are confidential and take a Court Order for the Clerk to even acknowledge a matter may or may not exist. These files are sealed and not available for public access.
  • Mental Illness cases are confidential matters filed with and maintained by the Clerk.
  • Dependency matters, where a juvenile / child is, (with or without the child’s knowledge), needing Court intervention. The Courts goal is to provide services to the parties to ensure a safe return of the child to a safe and stable home environment.
  • Juvenile Offender matters are cases where a child under the age of 18 years of age is alleged to have committed some type of crime.

Criminal Matters

In criminal matters, the “Plaintiff” is the State Of Washington and the “Defendant” is the person – over the age of 18 years of age- alleged to have committed an offense. The Plaintiff is represented by an attorney from the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, while the Defendant is represented by either their own private attorney, or a court appointed attorney called a Public Defender.

Victims of crime(s) are represented by the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney whose fees for legal services are paid for through State and County tax revenues.

In criminal cases, the Clerk’s Office issues warrants of arrest and subpoenas for witnesses, sends copies of various orders to the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington Department of Corrections, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, County Sheriffs, jails and other agencies. In addition, the Clerk’s Office registers all witnesses and is responsible for safeguarding all Exhibits admitted in a trial.

Civil Matters

In civil litigation, the “Plaintiff” is the party (or parties) who initiated the legal action and petitioned the court for some type of relief. The “Defendant” is the party (or parties) who are defending what has been alleged or claimed by the Plaintiff. All parties are represented by their own private attorney(s), or themselves (referred to as Pro-Se) with the cost for litigation being paid by the parties involved in the case.

The Clerk’s Office issues writs of garnishment, writs of execution and warrants for failure to comply with a court order.

The Clerk may, upon Motion and Notice to the parties, request the Court to dismiss matters that have not had any court activity for twelve (12) months or longer.

Domestic Violence is considered a ‘civil’ matter. Individuals meeting the guidelines set forth by State law, can obtain forms for this type of matter at the Clerk’s Office. For further information & assistance regarding Domestic Violence please click here.

Domestic / Family Law / Matters

Domestic / Family Law matters cover a wide array of ‘family type’ issues.

To clarify the following matters are considered “Domestic” matters:

  • Divorce
  • Legal Separation
  • Child Custody – when the parties have been married
  • Non-Parental Custody – when someone other than a biological parent requests

custody of a minor child,

  • Residential Custody – when the mother and father are not married but the father

signed as the father on the birth certificate when the child was born.

(for matters where the alleged father has not signed on the birth certificate, please see the section on Paternity cases below.)

The Clerk’s Office issues writs of garnishment, writs of execution, warrants for failure to comply with a court order. Upon completion of a divorce or legal separation, the Clerk transmits information to the Washington State Department of Health in Olympia for statistical record keeping. When needed, the Clerk issues forms for the transfer of title related to mobile homes and other vehicles which have a “VIN” number.

The Clerk may, upon Motion and Notice to the parties, request the court to dismiss matters that have not had any court activity for twelve (12) months or longer.

In Domestic litigation, the “Petitioner” is the party who initiated the legal action and petitioned the court for some type of relief. The “Respondent” is the party who is ‘responding’ to what has been requested by the Petitioner. All parties are represented by their own private attorney(s), or themselves (referred to as Pro-Se), with the cost for litigation being paid by the parties involved in the case.

Probate / Guardianship / Will Depository / Adoption Matters

Probate matters are cases involving Estates and Wills of a deceased person. The Clerk issues Letters Testamentary / Letters of Administration, and files the Oath of the personal representative appointed in the Probate case. When needed, the Clerk issues forms for the transfer of title related to mobile homes and other vehicles which have a “VIN” number.

Guardianship matters are cases where a ‘guardian’ is appointed for an individual who will oversee and insure the care and safety of the person they are the guardian for. The Clerk issues Letters of Guardianship / Letter of Administration and files the Oath of the guardian who has been appointed in the Guardianship case.

The Clerk’s Office is a “Will Depository” for living persons who wish for the ‘safe keeping’ of their will until their death. This legislation took effect in 2004. Wills being deposited in this manner are not public record, however, the Clerk can acknowledge that a will has been ‘deposited’.

Adoption matters are, for Yakima County, considered under this section of law. These cases are confidential and take a Court Order for the Clerk to even acknowledge a matter may or may not exist. These files are sealed and not available for public access.

Paternity Matters
(this is also considered an area of “Family Law” but is specific in nature to unmarried parents)

The Clerk’s Office maintains confidential court records pertaining to children who have been born out of wedlock (the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth). Paternity matters are generally reserved for cases where the father has not signed off on the birth certificate at the time the child was born. This applies for each child born of a set of parents.

Parents who are on state assistance may contact the Support Division of the Yakima County Prosecutors Office who initiates a Paternity case in order to determine through genetic testing, who the biological father of a child –or children- is. Upon that identification, orders related to financial support, visitation and custody of the minor child (or children) are addressed. Parties involved while this case is pending must provide photo identification in order to view or access the file.

These matters are confidential in nature and are not for public disclosure UNTIL the order determining parentage is entered by the court. Documents filed after that order, are public record. This is to ensure the confidentiality of alleged parents.

When the parties involved in such a matter need or wish to revise / update their financial support, visitation and or custody papers, they will continue to file their documents in this originating case.

Mental Illness Matters

Responsibility lies with the Clerk’s Office for maintaining the confidentiality of involuntary commitment cases. The Clerk’s Office sets hearings for intensive treatment proceedings and notifies witnesses, including mental health professionals. These matters are confidential and not public record.

Dependency Matters

The Clerk’s Office maintains confidential court records pertaining to children who have been abandoned, abused, neglected or who are in the custody of the court. The Clerk’s Office is responsible for issuing summons and in cases of child abuse, notification of the Washington State Patrol. Dependency cases also require the Clerk’s Office to perform special duties with regard to shelter care and “at risk” youth matters. These matters are confidential in nature and are sealed files not available for public access.

Juvenile Offender Matters

Upon a charge filed by the Prosecuting Attorney in a situation involving a juvenile (a person under the age of 18 years of age), the Clerk’s Office must issue a summons and warrant of arrest. Juvenile cases are subject to numerous special statutes, but have the same requirement as adult criminal cases where record keeping and exhibit control are concerned.