The Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce welcomed Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller for Miami-Dade County during its October luncheon.
“This is not your parents’ clerk’s office,” Fernandez-Barquin said while describing changes made to court procedures that affect most residents, whether they file paperwork for a mortgage, marriage or a will, or even get a traffic ticket.
Sixty business owners were joined by elected officials including County Commissioner Sen. Rene Garcia, who represents Miami Lakes, and Miami Lakes Councilman Josh Dieguez.
Dieguez introduced Fernandez-Barquin, a former Republican representing District 118 in the state House of Representatives until June, when Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to the position in Miami-Dade County.
An attorney, Fernandez-Barquin was previously an assistant public defender in the 15th Judicial Circuit in West Palm Beach.
Fernandez-Barquin noted some of the advances the office has made that he said made the courthouse more accessible to users.
Those included a database to register titles to combat property fraud.
“What we did was create a database for individuals and they can register and put in their email and folio number and if anything gets filed in the public record with their name, they get an alert,” Fernandez-Barquin said.
Other changes include a program for paying back parking tickets; extended office hours; partnering with Amscot, The Money Superstore as a place where drivers can pay tickets; and making records searches easier in the criminal court database.
This is an expansion of the original system created by former clerk, the late Harvey Ruvin, that would notify residents with a flyer sent in the mail.
Fernandez-Barquin said that the office also enlarged the mailed flyer to make sure that residents noticed it in their mailbox.
Another change he described was extending the business hours at two of the courthouses.
“I do recognize that a lot of individuals cannot take time off work,” Fernandez-Barquin said.
The two locations are the Joseph Caleb Center, 5400 NW 22nd Ave., and the South Dade Justice Center, 10710 SW 211th St.
Both locations are open until 8 p.m. on Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“That’s another great accomplishment that we have been able to do,” Fernandez-Barquin said.
A pilot program called Operation Greenlight happened in September. It prevented ticketed drivers from getting late fees or being sent for collection.
“What Operation Greenlight does is empower the clerk’s office to take those tickets from the collection agency… [and not charge an] additional 20 percent to 30 percent on a ticket,”
He said that program saved residents over $275,000 in money that drivers would have had to pay to collections agencies during the 17 days it ran. It also helped reinstate drivers’ licenses.
Fernandez-Barquin said he was looking forward to more changes set to happen in two years.
“The finance department migrates over to [my office] in January 2025,” Fernandez-Barquin said.
He will have about 300 more employees to perform functions with bonds and accounts receivable and payable, among other activities.
He said the office will also work with Miami Dade College students so they may get experience working in government.
The next chamber lunch is set for Nov. 8. Retired U.S. Marine Col. William Perez, chair of the Miami Lakes Veterans Committee, will be guest speaker.
The chamber is hosting the 23rd Annual Networking Business Expo on Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. in the Miami Lakes Hotel on Main, 6842 Main St.
To learn more, go to www.miamilakeschamber.com.