Wyoming: state legislature increases court automation fee from $10 to $25

Wyoming’s governor has signed into law HB 192 which raises the state’s court automation fee from $10 to $25. The House version increased the fee from $10 to $20. The Senate version increased the fee from $10 to $25 and exempted state agencies from the fee increase until July 2018.

It was the Senate version that was ultimately enacted.

The fee is added based on various filings (probate, appellate, civil, etc.) as well as on criminal convictions. The fee was created and set at $10 in 2000 with the proceeds going to a judicial systems automation account (W.S. 5–2–120) and is used by the supreme court for the purchase, maintenance and operation of computer hardware and software to enhance the communication, records and management needs of the courts.

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2017.

 

Wyoming: Effort to strip state courts of jurisdiction to hear K-12 funding lawsuits killed in House; Senate had approved 26-4.

A plan to strip Wyoming state courts of the power to hear lawsuits involving state constitutional provisions related to K-12 funding has been rejected in a House committee.

SJR 9 had cleared the Senate on a 26-4 vote earlier this month (as discussed here) and would have amended the state’s constitution to specify that “the legislature determines” the “necessary” level of funding and taxation for the schools. It also would have expressly prohibited courts from ordering funding changes.

No court shall order, enjoin or otherwise require the imposition of any tax or tax increase, nor require any other provision of funding beyond those means and amounts prescribed by law to carry into effect the provisions of this section.

The constitutional amendment was then sent to the House Education committee which yesterday voted 9-0 against.

 

Plans to link executive/legislative salaries to judges rejected in Indiana & Wyoming

Plans to tie the salaries of legislative and executive branch officials to judges have been rejected in both Indiana and Wyoming.

The Indiana plan, discussed here, builds on an existing plan that links the salaries of state legislators to judges. Under SB 60 as introduced, that link would have been extended to include top executive branch officials. The version that came out of committee and was approved by the Senate asks for a study committee to be formed to look at these salaries instead.

The Wyoming plan, HB 175 as discussed here, made linkages between top executive branch officials and judicial salaries. The amended version removed any reference to links and instead put in exact amounts (i.e. Governor = $113,000). Even with the amendment, the plan died in the House Committee of the Whole.

Wyoming: House rejects by 1 vote plan to stop Municipal Court judges from serving as at-will employees of municipality; concerns judges subject to reprisal for ruling against cities

A plan to end the practice of treating Municipal Court judges in Wyoming’s biggest cities as at-will employees failed by a single vote last week 29-30 (1 excused).

Currently all Wyoming Municipal Court judges are appointed and re-appointed by mayors with the consent of local governing bodies and may be removed by the local government. As such, they effectively serve as at-will employees.

HB 89 would have made several changes to these practices for judges in first class cities (population over 4,000) in order to “remove politics from the judicial process and allow municipal judges to work without fear of reprisal for ruling against their city’s interests.”

  1. Municipal Court judges would receive set 4-year terms (reduced to 2-years by floor amendment).
  2. Municipal Court judges would no longer be subject to removal at the will of the mayor or local government officials.
  3. Municipal Court judges would still receive their initial nomination from the mayor and approval by the governing body and serve for 1 year. After that year, the judge would be subject to a yes/no retention election rather than re-appointment. If they won, they would be subject to yes/no retention votes for additional terms.

Wyoming: Senate approves constitutional amendment to strip courts of power to hear challenges to K-12 education funding

A plan to strip the Wyoming courts of the power to hear cases involving K-12 education funding has cleared the Senate. The plan comes amid anticipation the state will have to cut funding for schools in possible violation of a series of state supreme court decisions (the Campbell cases) issued since 1995 that held such cuts would violate Art. 7, Sec. 9 of the state constitution regarding school funding.

The legislature shall make such further provision by taxation or otherwise, as with the income arising from the general school fund will create and maintain a thorough and efficient system of public schools, adequate to the proper instruction of all youth of the state, between the ages of six and twenty-one years, free of charge…

SJR 9 was approved on 26-4 vote by the Senate last week (media coverage here). It would amend Art. 7, Sec. 9 by providing the legislature alone is to determine the necessary levels of funding (new language in bold)

The legislature shall make such further provision by taxation or otherwise, as the legislature determines necessary together with the income arising from the general school fund will to create and maintain a thorough and efficient system of public schools…

In addition the constitution would be amended to add the following language:

No court shall order, enjoin or otherwise require the imposition of any tax or tax increase, nor require any other provision of funding beyond those means and amounts prescribed by law to carry into effect the provisions of this section.

SJR 9 now goes to the House where it must receive at least 2/3rds support before being sent to voters.

Add Wyoming to the list of states trying to tie executive/legislative salaries to judicial salaries; Oklahoma abandoned the practice

First it was Colorado. Then Indiana. Now Wyoming joins a growing number of states attempting to statutorily tie executive and/or legislative salaries to those of the judiciary.

HB 175 as filed makes two linkages

  • Governor = Supreme Court Justice
  • Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction = Circuit Court judge (note: in Wyoming the Circuit Court is a limited jurisdiction court)

It should be noted that Oklahoma had a similar linkage system it abandoned in the same year (and effectively the same week) Colorado adopted its version.

HB 175 was filed in the House but not yet assigned to a committee.

 

 

Wyoming: complaining of “activist judiciary” that “alter[s] the laws of God and nature”, House member proposes legislature override state supreme court decisions

A plan to allow the Wyoming legislature to override state supreme court decisions was rejected by the House late last week. HJR 7 as introduced provided any state supreme court decision after January 1, 2017 would be subject to a 36 month review period during which the legislature by 2/3rds vote could “void or annul the court’s decision, subject to [veto] by the governor under article 4, section 8.” Moreover the legislation overriding the supreme court would be exempt from judicial review.

On the floor the author of the plan complained of an “activist judiciary” and “despotic power in the judicial branch” that “alter[s] the law of God and nature at a whim” and thus the need of the legislature to have a “check and balance” on the courts (audio here from 13:00-18:00). Opponents noted among other things that this would make business decisions impossible since a state supreme court decision could not be relied upon.

Because the legislature is in its budget session “no bills except the budget bill may be introduced unless placed on call by a two-thirds vote of either house” meaning it needed 40 House votes just to be formally introduced; the final vote was 14 in favor of introduction and 45 against (1 excused).