Tropical Storm Allison annihilated the county's justice system, crippling the criminal courts building for months and mauling the Family Courts Center as well. In the ensuing mayhem, even judges sometimes didn't know where their temporary courts, salvaged files or trial settings would turn up. But the news media had to know. And that's where public information officer Fred King proved invaluable. King was perhaps the only media relations person to rush to press, publishing a special flood edition of the district clerk's Hearsay newsletter, giving the office's 500-plus employees updates. He aided District Clerk Charles Bacarisse on the contingency plans and fielded blizzards of questions from baffled reporters. Even in the best of times, the clerk's office -- it processes roughly 100,000 cases annually, ranging from civil suits to felony and misdemeanor charges -- looms as a mysterious labyrinth. King is a master translator into understandable terms. Local public entities regularly insulate themselves with PR people, and more and more seem to be the alter egos of the glib Ken-and-Barbie glamour types that first invaded local television. They may ooze with charm and offer ample sound bites, but know nothing about the real information within their own agencies. Credit Bacarisse (himself a former White House communications staffer) for landing a media pro with proven credibility.