SHERIDAN — Raising fees to file miscellaneous court automation documents with the Wyoming judicial system may prove effective in benefiting forward improvements for technology within the system, a slow moving and longtime goal of the group.
A bill running through the Wyoming Legislature was introduced on the House floor with a vote of 51-9 Wednesday and continued into discussion in the House Appropriations Committee Friday morning.
“What that would do is it would create additional funding for the court’s technology project in the amount of about $3 million per biennium,” said Elisa Butler, general counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
The bill increases court automation fees from $25-$30 to a set $40 in all courts for most types of filings established in state statute.
Before proposed updates to Wyoming Statute 2-2-40, the Joint Judiciary Committee brought up the idea of public access to an electronic docket back in 2018, which would allow home access to court dockets. In a 2018 article by The Sheridan Press, Sen. Dave Kinsky, R-Sheridan, reported courts would not go live on internet access until it could be certain adequate safeguards are in effect, but also said those options should be available, as the national court document system, PACER, has been working for years.
Proponents say the increased court automation fees will help combat those issues.
“This will bring in an additional about $3 million per biennium for some of our critical needs,” said Claire Smith, chief fiscal officer and human resources for Administrative Office of the Courts. “Despite that, we are still short about $1.7 million, I want to say off the top of my head, so those would be the things that we need to continue to run our IT department in addition to that courtroom technology.”
Julie Goyen, chief information officer with the Wyoming Supreme Court, said the $1.7 combines costs for the one-time IT update to the Supreme Court’s appellate system and continued maintenance and support, which totals roughly $82,000-$100,000 per year.
Beth Lance with the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of the association.
“As an association, we support this bill,” Lance said. “With the automation fees, knowing that they are going directly toward automating our court system and bringing it forward with e-filing, we see all of those things as very positive for the court system and positive for the citizens that use our courts. We see it as an access to justice issue and that this helps support access to our judiciary system and court system.”
The administrative impacts once more court automation is in place, according to the information compiled by the Legislative Services Office, increases duties or responsibilities of one or more state agencies and may impact agency spending or staffing requirements, according to the note.
No floor sessions are currently scheduled for the bill, which increases and conforms specified court automation and filing fees to potentially go into effect July 1, 2020. Local Reps. Mark Kinner, R-Sheridan, and Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, voted for the bill on introduction. Reps. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan and Richard Tass, R-Buffalo, voted against the bill on introduction.