SHERIDAN — Workload assessments show several Wyoming courtrooms are short on judges, but District 4 — encompassing Johnson and Sheridan counties — currently has enough judges to meet demand.
A Wyoming Supreme Court evaluation released in late August shows the local district court is adequately staffed while circuit court is nearly sufficient.
The work-study breaks down caseload based on full-time equivalents. The 4th Judicial District Court employs two full-time judges — John Fenn and William Edelman — and carries a workload of 1.51 FTE.
This surplus allows the judges to help out elsewhere around the state, mainly Campbell and Park counties.
“Almost exactly three years ago, we got a second judge,” Fenn explained of the state adding Edelman. “We went from the busiest judge and district per judge to a transition where now we’re on the low end of that. So we’re very lucky in the 4th Judicial District that we have two judges, and our workload is manageable.”
The Circuit Court of the 4th Judicial District almost meets its total workload. Between full-time Judge Shelley Cundiff, who operates in Sheridan, and 0.54 FTE Magistrate Paul Jarvis in Buffalo, the courts nearly meet the 1.57 FTE district workload.
When broken down by location, however, Sheridan has its hands full. Of the total workload, 1.23 FTE comes from Sheridan County. Johnson County carries 0.33 FTE.
A circuit court representative called the caseload “heavy,” with the Sheridan court usually proceeding Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesdays serve as a day for jury trials, if necessary, and the court uses Friday as a catch-up day to complete paperwork.
The increase in circuit court has occurred for several reasons. A number of years ago, the city of Sheridan’s municipal court stopped hearing certain offenses, like driving under the influence within city limits, transferring that workload to circuit court.
Statutes also changed. The circuit court now hears civil cases up to $50,000. This helped with district court caseloads while simultaneously burdening circuit courts.
But the circuit court is still able to get civil cases scheduled within the allowed timeframe.
Fenn agreed. The district court is able to meet its scheduling obligations as outlined by law.
Not every court around the state is so lucky.
Legislators have pointed to Laramie, Sweetwater, Uinta and Campbell counties as areas in need of additional judges. The Laramie County 1st Judicial District Court in Cheyenne, for example, has three full-time judges but a workload more suitable for four judges, according to the work assessment.