The Offices of Clerk of Courts, Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court and this elected official is known as a “dual officeholder”. This officeholder is the filing office for the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County for criminal cases, juvenile cases, children and youth cases, estates, guardianships, adoptions, marriage licenses and various miscellaneous matters later enumerated. In this capacity, all original records are maintained by and the ultimate responsibility of the Clerk and Register. In addition, effective January 1, 2006, the Cost Collections Department was transferred officially as a subsidiary department to the Office of Clerk of Courts and this officeholder is now responsible for its supervision.
It is the responsibility of the Clerk of Courts Office to maintain and file all documents, pleadings and orders for the Court of Common Pleas and those types of cases that fall under the auspices of this office would include District Justice cases filed with Misdemeanor 3 (M3) dispositions for collection and further handling, Summary Appeals, bail bonding applications, all criminal cases, juvenile cases, children and youth cases and various other miscellaneous matters that weren’t historically assigned to any other office such as the road and bridge dockets, detective licenses, constable and tax collectors’ bonds, appointments of public officials, township audits and township reports. It is also the responsibility of the Clerk of Courts to properly assess, collect and distribute all costs, fines and/or restitution with regard to all these matters and in accord with the law. Understandably, therefore, the Cost Collections Department, being the “enforcement” office for these collections for criminal cases, works very closely with the Office of Clerk of Courts.
Monthly accounting and reporting to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and State Department of Revenue is required. In addition, reporting is also required to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles with regard to all motor vehicle charges. With regard to sentences, we are also required to complete State Commitment forms to the Department of Corrections on those offenders receiving state sentences.
The Office of Register of Wills has jurisdiction over the probate of wills and grant of letters of administration when a person dies. In the case of a conflict for the appointment of an executor or administrator, the Register of Wills is required to conduct informal and formal
hearings in an attempt to resolve the conflict before referring it to the Court of Common Pleas, Orphans’ Court Division. The Register of Wills in each county is also the Agent for the Department of Revenue in the filing of inheritance tax returns, collection of inheritance taxes owed and transmittal to the Department of Revenue and receives a monthly commission for this service, said commission is then turned over to the County’s general fund, of course.
The Office of Clerk of Orphans’ Court takes the application and issues marriage licenses for Mercer County and is responsible for the Court of Common Pleas records with regard to estate proceedings, guardianship proceedings and adoption proceedings.
The two offices of Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court are in a sense “companion offices” by virtue of the filings. Again, this officeholder is responsible for reporting to the State each month insofar as their case load and financial/accounting matters are concerned.
It is very interesting to note that each county in Pennsylvania may have divided their row offices differently throughout history. I believe Mercer County is one of a few that has these three offices combined under one officeholder. For example, in Lawrence County there is one officeholder for the Offices of Clerk of Courts, Prothonotary and Clerk of Orphans’ Court; another for the Offices of Recorder of Deeds and Register of Wills; and then, I believe the Treasurer and Controller are each separate offices. In the smaller counties, some people hold the five offices of Clerk of Courts, Prothonotary, Register of Wills, Clerk of Orphans’ Court and Recorder of Deeds.
Mary Jo Basilone DePreta,
Clerk and Register of Mercer County