Lee County Clerk of Court Linda Doggett performs state court-related duties and is chief financial officer and public records keeper for the County. Her office handles 5 to 6 million documents each year, and she is using technology to create efficiencies, improve customer service and protect sensitive data.
Doggett joined the Clerk’s Office as a computer programmer in 1984. She has since served as chief operating officer, as well as director of the Courts and Information Technology departments before being elected to her first four-year term in 2012. She was recently awarded Clerk of the Year by the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers for leading the association’s technology strategic plan.
How does the statewide organization benefit Lee County?
It lowers the cost for each individual county. When [residents] are representing themselves [in court], all the pro se forms are pretty complicated. How can we help them do that? The idea is to implement TurboCourt forms as a statewide offering. Lee County would no longer pay the vendor’s annual maintenance fee. We’d get it as a benefit. Before, the user fee to the vendor was around $60 to fill out a more complicated form. With the statewide initiative, that fee will go down to about $10.
Why is technology so important for your office?
We’re trying to have more people use electronic forms. It’s more efficient for my office, so we’re not touching all that paper. Automated data entry will increase the speed we get information into our case management system. When we can do that, the whole court system steps up a pace—without adding people.
What are your biggest challenges?
Some of the information needs to be protected—Social Security numbers, bank accounts, addresses of law enforcement. We have to read through lots of documents to black it out before we put it on the public website. It’s not 100 percent accurate. There needs to be some automation for protection and to speed data entry. That’s a big goal for me. It’s going to take a year or so.
What new features will be available to residents?
We’re rolling out a fraud alert on property records online—mortgages, deeds. If you register and there’s activity on anything with your name on it, you will get an alert and can contact law enforcement. We’re also going to have a conversation with title companies and real estate folks about how we can protect people’s property ownership records. We could raise awareness.
What other changes will improve customer service?
We put some folks in the tax collector’s Bonita Springs office a few months ago to give people the option not to drive all the way downtown. And we’re working on letting a few tax collector folks come into the Justice Center [in downtown Fort Myers] to reinstate driver licenses. If it’s a suspension reinstatement we can’t do, we can just have them step to the next window versus going to another building and another line.