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Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Barry County court system has undergone a major change since the start of the new year. Effective Jan. 1, 2007, the circuit and associate circuit court divisions have been consolidated.

Through an agreement between Circuit Clerk Craig Williams, Associate Circuit Judge Carr Woods and Victor Head and Circuit Judge Robert Wiley, all circuit and associate division staff now fall under one appointing authority and their duties have been split into civil and criminal divisions.

According to Williams, the consolidation will save time and resources and produce more efficient customer service.

"The clerk staff has been divided into two divisions - criminal and civil," said Williams. "Now the public will be able to go to one area to pay criminal court costs and look at civil files, rather than two areas as it has been in the past."

The reorganization process has also resulted in a more standardized court schedule, Williams said. Preliminary hearings and bench trials are now scheduled for Mondays, criminal cases and ex parte orders are handled on Tuesdays and Thursdays have been set aside for ex parte and civil cases. One day is also set aside each month for small claims, probate and juvenile cases.

As a result of the consolidation, the addresses for the Barry County Circuit Court have changed. The new addresses are listed below.

• Circuit Court Criminal Division, 102 West St., Suite 1, Cassville MO 65625.

• Circuit Court Civil Division, 102 West St., Suite 2, Cassville MO 65625.

The newly consolidated court will also be utilizing a new automated phone system that will direct citizens to the appropriate office personnel.

"There will be one number for the Judicial Center, and upon calling, you will be able to select which office you need to contact," Williams said.

The new telephone number for the Barry County Judicial Center, which includes the public administrator, prosecuting attorney, circuit court civil division and circuit court criminal division, is 417-846-3133. The new number goes into service on Feb. 8.

Under the system, option #1 is the public administrator's office, option #2 is the civil division, option #3 is the criminal division and option #4 is the prosecutor's office. The system also lists option #5, which has been designated for jury duty, and option #6, which provides directions to the Judicial Center.

A portion of the expense for the new system was provided through special funding from the State Court Administrators Office. Money was made available through the state as an incentive for consolidating court functions.

The county also took advantage of another incentive, which provided raises for all clerical staff, whose salaries are paid by the state. The salary increases exclude Williams and all three judges.

Williams said plans to consolidate the county courtsystem began back in March of 2006.

"The clerk staff has done a great job during this process," said Williams. "Without their dedication and hard work, consolidation would fail."



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