Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Sixth Judicial District seeks to secure new judge


November 14, 2019

Crook County’s three District Court judges are doing the work of four people, according to the latest workload assessment from the Wyoming Supreme Court. One of those three, Honorable Michael N. Deegan, updated the county commissioners last week on “an effort we’re undertaking to secure a fourth district court judge”.

According to the workload assessment, Judges Deegan, John R. Perry and Thomas W. Rumpke have undertaken the workload of 4.16 people over the last year. The majority of this, said Deegan, was in Campbell County, which is causing longer wait times in Crook and Weston, the other two counties included in the district.

The workload assessment shows that the three judges dealt with a total of 1864 filings in 2019 from Campbell County but just 165 from Crook County and 205 from Weston County. Of a total workload of 328,821 minutes, 276.879 were dedicated to Campbell County.

In summary, an estimated 83 percent of the district’s workload is centered in Campbell County, Judge Deegan said. Each of the three judges tries to visit Crook and Weston Counties once per month.

“Having a fourth judge, even with the smaller amount of work we do in Crook and Weston Counties, I think would alleviate the wait,” he said.

Deegan asked for support from the commission, explaining that the proposal is in its early stages and will ultimately be the decision of the Wyoming Legislature. He was joined by Senator Michael Von Flatern, Campbell County.

He also received support from Senator Ogden Driskill, who said, “I’m fully supportive – I’ll be a co-sponsor with Senator Von Flatern.”

Deegan shared his hope that the proposal will be successful on the basis that the Campbell County Commissioners have purchased the old Cloud Peak office building across the road from the courthouse. The idea, he said, is to put the public defenders in that building to increase the available space within the courthouse.

“They’re so supportive of what we do,” he said of the Campbell County Commissioners, who he credits with making the proposal possible through their actions.

Clerk of District Court Tina Wood questioned whether there is a procedure in place for a request of this nature. Von Flatern responded that there is not, but that District One went through a similar process and showed that it will take building a courtroom for the new judge at the expense of the county.

It costs around $1 million per biennium to support a District Court judge, said Von Flatern. However, he added, judges have on average reverted around $750,000 each over the last few years through the fines, fees and costs imposed through sentences.

County Attorney Joe Baron felt it should be borne in mind that the Sixth Judicial District has always tried harder than most to recover costs from participants, such as by ordering that the public defender’s fees be paid. Recovery is not uniform throughout the state, he said, but in his experience has always been something the judges have done in this area.

“I think that’s to their credit,” he said.

Von Flatern agreed that this will be a strong argument when making the case that this district is in need of a new judge.

The Crook County Commissioners agreed to send a letter to the state legislature in support of the proposal for a fourth judge.


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