The Clerk of Court in Room 104 was the most well-organized one I’ve seen in the state. I have visited Sabine, Bossier, Caddo, Jefferson, and Orleans (both before and after Hurricane Katrina).   Louie Barnard greeted us personally.

[an aside: Orleans Parish has a Civil District Court Clerk which includes a Mortgage office, Conveyance Office and Notarial Archives, and a separate Criminal Court Clerk- this is unique to the state)… also unique to Orleans, election petitions and reporting of irregularities are certified by the Elections Board rather than Clerk of Court)]

Linda Corkrell, Chief Deputy Clerk, explained that the Clerk is the recorder of all legal documents. She brought us to the records room where she explained that they have documents dating back to 1732, including an inventory of Ft. St. Denis. The earliest archives are in French and some documents are in Spanish. Documents include civil, probate, adoption (confidential, in perpetuity), commitments (confidential, in perpetuity), and interdictions. A webview subscription is available for records from 1976-present.

The French documents have been de-acidified and encapsulated in mylar sleeves. Some documents from the 1800s were laminated to avoid destruction. The office maintains a number of maps. Some smaller maps are attached to deeds in the conveyance books.

Ms. Corkrell also explained the system of conveyances: Direct (Vendee) is the buyer; Indirect (vendor) is the seller.

The office is open 8:30 am-4:30 PM. Copies are $1 per page; the office gets no operating funds from tax revenue and thus operates on a fee basis. The other people utilizing the site on the day of our visit were “land men” and researchers for oil and gas companies. They seemed to breeze through the well-ordered materials.

I have nothing to recommend to the office, save a revision of Louisiana Code that would give funding to Clerks offices… and allow them better climate control…and while I’m dreaming, an archivist and funding for archives to preserve our precious historical records too… they could begin digitizing the older materials while the other staff digitize from present backward… they could meet at May 10, 1869…um, no…. wake up, Robert! The motors of history turn from the motor forces of the day… and while heritage tourism is an important industry, I don’t think the Clerks’ office will benefit to such a degree anytime soon.

 

The Assessors Office was likewise orderly, neat and clean. Assessor Rick Hargis and the staff were all very helpful, professional, and courteous.  Mr. Hargis explained that his office appraises all properties in the 30+ taxing districts in the Parish. They then send to the LA Tax Commission for approval. The Sheriff Collects taxes [aside- it’s always struck me strange that I write my check for property taxes  in Bossier Parish to “Larry C. Deen.” Not Sheriff of Bossier Parish or any other entity… in Orleans it’s payable to Bureau of the Treasury] and the information is updated daily. The Natchitoches Assessor prints the tax bill for Natchitoches and the other incorporated villages of Natchez, Campti, Robeline, and Powhatan.

[ another aside: Most of my dealings have been with Bossier Parish and Orleans. In Orleans Parish there are seven elected Assessors, and the style, personalities and culture of each office is different. This system has been in place for more than a century, is unique within Louisiana and perhaps the country. The Assessors- like many elected offices in “machine politics” are fiefs. One seat has been in a single family since 1904.

After Hurricane Katrina the system was attacked for being overly- bureaucratic and redundant and citizens voted to replace the system with a single assessor. An article in NOLA.Com says that long lost “cousin” Buddy Caldwell recently ruled that the seven assessors keep their pay through Dec 31 2010, as long as seven months after voters elected a single assessor http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/10/post_33.html ]

Ms. Dollie showed our cohort how to do a property search on the office’s public computer terminal.  She introduced us to the office including Yolanda (business taxes), Kim (deep transfers), Greg (photos), and Tim, the map maker.

The office provides a handy trifold “For the Property Owner of Natchitches Parish” and seems like a well-oiled machine.  I could only recommend an address search online tool (for the general public, or at least with University Database). Only one other visitor came into the office while we were there. He was a working researcher and seemed uninterested in me asking his opinion of the site.

First-time visitor experience: Four bouquets and ½ brickbat (the severe weather siren was deafening.. but I know that it’s not their fault  so I won’t throw that half brickbat).

Advertisements