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Mecklenburg Clerk of Court Curran to step down

After nearly 24 years in office, Mecklenburg Clerk of Superior Court Martha Curran says she is stepping down in December.

Curran, who has run the clerk’s office since 1990, won’t seek re-election this year. Her sixth four-year term ends Dec. 1. She said she hasn’t decided what she’ll do next but perhaps would like to help mediate legal disputes.

“I’ve been very proud to be a part of the North Carolina court system,” she said Friday in an interview. “I think my folks, my staff, have been amazing.”

She informed the 206-member staff on Wednesday, thanking them for getting so much done over the years despite chronic understaffing and outdated computer equipment.

“We’re expected to do 100 percent of the work with a staff that’s 75 percent of what we should have,” Curran, 62, told the newspaper.

First elected in 1990, she became the first woman to hold the office. A lawyer, she had previously served as a legal officer for then-clerk Max Blackburn. Blackburn, a Democrat, crossed party lines to support her bid.

The clerk’s office is perhaps best known to the general public for keeping court files and receiving payment of court fees and legal fines. But Curran noted that under North Carolina’s court system, the clerk’s office also oversees legal cases involving everything from wills and guardianships to land sales and foreclosures.

Curran said one of her proudest accomplishments was helping push for a new statewide system that allocates staff positions based on workloads. Political considerations played a bigger role before the change, she said.

The reform resulted in the Mecklenburg clerk’s office receiving about 50 new positions about seven years ago, Curran said, easing though not eliminating the staffing shortage.

When the county’s new $148 million courthouse opened in 2007, her office moved case files totaling 2 miles in length to the new building. And when the recession struck shortly afterward, she watched foreclosure cases become the fastest-growing type of case at the courthouse, increasing at a faster rate than even criminal offenses.

Curran said she continues to work for better staffing and computer equipment.

The clerk’s office also keeps track of considerable sums of money, handling more than 300,000 receipt-generating transactions each year. She said anywhere from $95 million to $100 million passes through the courthouse annually.

Curran said she would like to do advocacy work after she leaves office, trying to get more money and equipment for the courts.

“I really care about the office, and I will do whatever I can to help whoever (succeeds me) make things work,” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Clerk of Superior Court is the most complicated and hardest job in the courthouse. It may not be the most visible or well-known, but you really couldn’t do court without us.”

Filing for the office opens Feb. 10.

Frazier: 704-358-5145; @Ericfraz on Twitter.
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