Your View: Marstons bid is a curious challenge to Semonians court clerk post


To the editor:

Edward Semonian, Alexandrias incumbent circuit court clerk, runs one of the most efficient and professional offices in Virginia. His tenure in office continues to be distinguished by a level of exemplary service to members of the public and other agencies. Among other outstanding features, his office utilizes a case management system which is technologically far superior to the system used by the Supreme Court of Virginia and by most of his colleagues, and which is considered a model for other courts across Virginia.

Curiously, Semonian now faces opposition in the November election from a candidate who cites a need to bring the clerks office into the 21st century, primarily by enabling consumers to do business with the office online. Chris Marston, citing management experience as a mid-level bureaucrat in the Bush administration, claims he will change the office to offer internet transactions and greater public access to records.

If nothing else, Mr. Marstons proposals demonstrate a profound ignorance of the nuances of the post he seeks to fill. By state law, the bulk of daily transactions conducted with the clerks office (obtaining marriage licenses, qualifying as a notary, conducting probate business, being sworn in as a member of a board or commission) all require personal appearances and administration of an oath. While the Supreme Court of Virginia has promulgated rules which would allow electronic filing of cases, few courts in  Virginia have yet been able to implement such a practice after the General Assembly effectively hijacked funding for innovations in court technology.   

In the face of financial and other constraints, Semonians office already offers online access to images of deeds and land records, as well as documents filed in criminal and civil cases, through its office website. His office is one of only a handful in the state offering such wide access.

Mr. Marston also seeks to politicize this race, claiming it is a position that Republicans can win and should not be one that Democrats think they are entitled to, referring to Semonians tenure in office of 32 years (running as a Democrat) without an opponent in a general election.    

Voters who decide party affiliation is the most important qualification for this post are off course. Mr. Semonian has held this position for many years not because of his party affiliation, but because he does an excellent job. His experience, professionalism and use of cutting edge technology have earned him the respect of the courts, the bar, and the citizenry he serves. Alexandria is indeed fortunate to have such a public servant who is ready, willing and able to continue the excellent level of service for which he is so well known.