Retiring clerk weighs advantages, disadvantages

Retirement has its advantages and disadvantages for Carlene Wade.
It will allow her more time with her grandchildren and home projects.
She will, however, miss longtime friends at the Tulsa County Courthouse.
Dec. 16 is the last day of work for Wade, Judge Kurt Glassco’s minute clerk.
During her nearly 35-year career in the Tulsa District Court, Wade, who currently works for the Tulsa County Court Clerk’s office, has served seven judges in both the civil and criminal divisions.
Besides Glassco, judges included Bill Beasley, Clifford Hopper, Jefferson Sellers, Gordon McAllister, Tom Thornbrugh and Dana Kuehn.
Work has been challenging at times because of the various dockets. But it’s also been fun, Wade said.
Wade was attracted to the courthouse because she “needed a steady job.” And her neighbor Beverly Wade — of no relation — who worked for many years in small claims, encouraged her to apply.
“At first, I didn’t know what I was getting into or what I was doing,” she said. “But that was an opportunity to expand my knowledge about what is going on in the world, especially when I got into criminal court.”
Awareness was present during Wade’s long career.
“Everything was happening around me,” she said.
Work in the civil division consisted mostly of filing papers, which was “boring,” she said.
That changed when she became a minute clerk for Hopper, who, at the time, had a civil docket.
When Hopper took over another judge’s criminal docket, Wade also made the transition.
“It was unusual for a minute clerk to follow a judge, but Judge Hopper wanted me to stay with him,” she said.
Despite his tough reputation outside the courthouse, Hopper always was considerate toward his staff, Wade said. Prominent people visited often, making the position exciting.
Describing Hopper’s demeanor, Wade said he was in charge of the courtroom. He expected attorneys to wear suits and ties and be presentable.
Wade smiled as she recalled Hopper’s apparent opinion that women should not be attorneys, adding that he mellowed in his later years on the bench.
Hopper also raised a lot of money for the courts and county because he required defendants to pay court costs.
Those defendants had to get jobs to pay their costs and regularly appeared before him, she said. Hopper predicted the individual would continue his or her employment after the court fees were paid.
As a minute clerk, Wade is in the courtroom when juries are selected, as well as for pleas and sentences. When possible, she also listens to some witness testimonies but often is busy handling the court paperwork that, if put aside, quickly becomes overwhelming.
Wade’s work starts by preparing the docket, indicating those who are in custody and should appear on a given day.
Information is collected about dispositions and the future of the case, such as whether bench warrants or bond forfeitures are needed.
A “file girl” handles all of the required filing, which frees clerks for other work.
During jury trials, Wade would call names, noting those “kicked off” and those who were kept for service.
“My goal was to be helpful to the public while making certain all work assigned by the judge is completed,” she said.
Computers made the mounds of paperwork easier to handle.
For many years, judgments and minutes were typed. Four copies were required, which meant using carbon paper.
That process was horrible, especially if someone made a mistake, Wade said. There were no computers until 1988, and theirs weren’t changed until 2000 when many thought the equipment would crash during the coming of the new century.
Computers were a welcome change.
Wade said she will visit her longtime friends from time to time, but past experiences show those visits might be few.

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