Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Pam Martin
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Lasting Legacy for Clerk of Court Debra Crosser

 

February 12, 2017

Courtesy photo Debra Crosser has served the public as Clerk of Court for 30 years in Boulder County. She retires at the end of the month.

Gunbarrel resident Debra Crosser will retire at the end of the month after 30 years of public service, most of it as Clerk of the Court for the 20th Judicial District, which encompasses all of Boulder County.

For county residents who’ve broken the law, or for those who’ve landed in court simply to pay a fine or file a claim, the process can be intimidating.

Crosser has been on the job making the public’s experience through the court system as smooth as possible, whether they’re in court for an adoption, divorce or a criminal case, a name change or a protection order. She’s been helping guide county residents through a labyrinth of forms and directives, while maintaining a fair caseload flow for county court and district court judges.

Starting in Boulder County in the late 1980s, she helped transition the office to a computer-based record-keeping system. Her office has had at least five software systems since, she said, and is in the process of going virtually paperless, with her staff busy scanning and uploading old files, while instituting the latest—a criminal e-filing system—last October.

“Boulder has been at the forefront—the pilot district—for many of the court’s e-filing procedures,” Crosser said, all of which have then been adopted by other courts throughout the state.

“We provide a lot of information from those records,” she continued, “to the parties involved, the attorneys, to employers.” She described her staff as being “devoted to data.”

Because of her length of service with the county, she said she knows “a little bit about everything.” There are those procedures that only happen three or four times per year, and she’s been known to save the day by reaching into the vault of her memory to come up with the proper protocol.

The Boulder County courts instituted a self-help center about five years ago, which “made a big difference in our counter functions,” she said. The system allowed her staff to see and process more people, and because it freed up some of their time, they’ve been able to go more in depth with those patrons with particularly thorny issues.

“And because of that, they can be better prepared for when they go in to court…. It’s a better experience for both parties,” Crosser said, meaning for her staff as well as the public.

The job comes with a heavy workload along with a lot of public interface, but Crosser has found it rewarding. “You feel good at the end of the day knowing that you’ve been able to help so many people,” she said.

On the criminal court side, some of the defendants she’s guided through the process are repeat offenders facing felony charges, while others are first-time offenders. She treats them all with respect and consideration.

“My philosophy is, I could have been the one to be in trouble,” she said. “I understand that none of them are [at court] by choice; it’s scary.”

A career highlight has been to consult for statewide committees when new legislation is being developed. Lawmakers will seek experts’ opinions on how a new procedure will affect the courts - including court employees’ workloads, for example, and other monetary impacts.

One recent piece of legislation involved the sealing of court and criminal records. “It used to be if you were charged with a felony and a misdemeanor, and the felony was dismissed but there was a conviction on the misdemeanor charge, they’d both be on your record,” Crosser explained. “And 30 years from now potential employers would see that you’d been charged [with a felony]—and there would be negative connotations to that.”

But that’s changed because of legislation passed last year on which she served as consultant. “Now you can petition the court [after a certain number of days] to have the dismissed charge sealed.” She intimated that the hubris of youth shouldn’t adversely affect the rest of a person’s life.

Crosser is highly thought of by the legal community. “Whenever lawyers or paralegals have a question about procedure, Debbie is always available to help,” Niwot attorney Bruce Warren said. “I recall when documents were filed with the court by hard copy, and if you didn’t get to the courthouse by 5 p.m., you could deliver them to her at her home.”

She’s going to miss the camaraderie shared by her fellow court employees. “Our judicial branch is a great employer,” she said, and characterized her staff and judges as a “good working and cohesive group of people.”

While she relishes the hectic pace of the job, she admitted to feeling pulled in too many directions in recent months. Her husband has some health issues, and her mom has been needing more of her attention, she said. “I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family.”

But that won’t preclude her from stopping in for “a court fix” from time to time, she said.

 

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