Wyoming State of the Judiciary: court technology, judicial salaries, and state vs. local funding

July 8th, 2013 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

The National Center for State Courts has an archive of current and prior State of the Judiciary addresses located here.

Marilyn S. Kite, Chief Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court delivered a state of the judiciary address to a joint session of the Wyoming legislature on January 9, 2013. There does not appear to have been a formal resolution filed in the House or Senate.

Highlights from the Chief Justice’s speech are below the fold.

Most of you will recall last year when we discussed the need to increase judicial salaries, we predicted a significant turnover in our judicial ranks and that a fair salary was essential if we expected to attract strong candidates. As you can see, your action to increase salaries was timely and had the desired result of encouraging numerous very qualified attorneys to change the course of their careers and enter public service. The positive impact of your decision last year will be felt by countless Wyoming citizens over many years.

The Judicial Branch has, with your support and leadership, continued its progress into the digital age. We have rolled out a new uniform district court docket management system in three pilot courts and hope to have all district courts on line this year.

You may recall that we reported over the last few years the progress we have made in providing for on-line payment of citations in our circuit courts. That system is working well and has collected over $10 million 24 hours a day from all over the world.

Two final milestones on the technology front–we are increasing use of our video conferencing system which helps avoid unnecessary travel for judges and law enforcement…Also, this past month the Supreme Court began streaming its oral arguments live online and we hope to have them archived on line as well sometime this year.

We have devoted substantial effort this year to responding to your call to reduce budgets while maintaining the same level of service to the public…However, courts do not have optional programs that can be eliminated.

Some local governments have even offered to pay the cost of operating those courts. We want you to know that the [Board of Judicial Policy and Administration] and the Supreme Court believe that would be absolutely the wrong approach and counter to the direction we all took over 20 years ago to implement a uniform state funded court system.

We have also identified statutes that require us to spend money unnecessarily. For us to make significant budget cuts, this body will have to be willing to change these statutes.

Finally, I must report to you a disturbing development in our branch of government this past year. At the end of August, thankfully not while court was in session, a gun was fired into the metal building that houses the Riverton circuit courtroom, entering the wall behind the judge’s bench, passing over the defense table and the audience seating area and lodging in the opposite wall. The perpetrator has not been identified and the investigation continues. This incident made very real the need for our judges, employees, witnesses, jurors and citizens who utilize our courts to be safe.

We all wish you well in your work during this session as you strive to find solutions to the problems and challenges of our state. Good luck and God speed.

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