Four months into her new job as Queens County Clerk after two decades in the State Assembly, Audrey Pheffer is still excited about the challenge of learning a new job.
As county clerk, Pheffer is the record keeper for the Queens Supreme Court, as well criminal and civil courts.
“Whenever a Supreme Court decision comes down, we record, we scan it and keep it,” she said, adding that most of the information the office records is available to the public.
The county clerk’s office keeps marriage and divorce records, and also acts as commissioner of jurors, certifies notary’s signatures, files liens, business certificates and processes passports.
Being the county’s official record keeper means volumes of papers passing through the doors each day. To help reduce the flow of papers that pass, a new e-filing system has been implemented. The system allows lawyers to file their paperwork through their computer, rather than requiring them to come into an office and having them scanned – saving both time and paper.
Pheffer was appointed county clerk by A. Gail Prudenti, the presiding judge of the Appellate Division Second Judicial Department in May following her predecessor Gloria D’Amico’s death earlier in the year. Prior to her appointment, Pheffer served for 24 years in the State’s 23rd Assembly District.
Her experience as an Assemblymember will come in handy as she visits Community Board meetings to discuss the importance of jury duty, she said.
“People look at jury duty as very negative,” Pheffer said. “We’re looking to change that.”
Pheffer estimated that only 30 percent of residents fill out the mandatory Juror Qualification Questionnaire which determines who is eligible to serve.
“Many people don’t have to serve because they’re not a citizen or don’t live in Queens, but we don’t know because they don’t respond,” she said.
Though there is a better response from residents who receive a jury summons, only about 50 percent of residents don’t ask for postponements, she said.
Pheffer reminded residents that though they have been a little lax in enforcement, ignoring the questionnaires and summonses are against the law.
“I would hate to have to implement some of the penalties; people are not respecting something that has to be done. In the most diverse county, we need jurors to match that,” she said.
After four months on the job, Pheffer is still adjusting and excited about the challenge.
“I’m still learning every day. The staff is coming up with new ideas. You want to find the easiest, quickest way to do things,” she said. “I’m enjoying it.”
The most difficult aspect of the job has been keeping the same level of productivity with 25 percent less staff. Luckily, she said, many of the staff that was with D’Amico for her 20 year run as county clerk is still there.
“The staff has been around for a very long time which is a very stabilizing thing for an office,” Pheffer said. “We haven’t had many complaints, so we must be doing all right.”