In a bill introduced into the Wyoming Senate on Jan. 19, the third, sixth and seventh judicial districts would each receive an additional judge.
The seventh judicial district, which covers Natrona County, currently has three judges, Dan Forgey, Kerri M. Johnson, and Catherine Wilking.
The third judicial district, which covers Sweetwater, Lincoln, and Uinta County, currently has three judges, Joseph Bluemel, Suzannah Robinson, and Richard Lavery.
The sixth judicial district, which covers Campbell, Weston, and Crook County, also has three judges, Thomas Rumpke, Stuart Healy the III, and James Michael Causey.
Tara Nethercott, Wyoming state Senator on the Judicial Committee, said the reason for the extra judges is due to the increase in caseload that the judges in those three districts are facing.
As to why there’s an increase in caseloads, Nethercott said there isn’t any, one factor that could be contributing to that increase.
“There was some speculation, but there is no one factor that is contributing to that,” Nethercott said. “There did seem to be some kind of anecdotal information from the judges that indicated there’s an increase in motion practices, which means that attorney’s and litigants are needing to appear in front of the court more frequently and often as opposed to resolving some of their concerns outside of the court, and litigation is becoming more litigious.”
When it comes to the rest of the district courts in the state, Nethercott said the need there isn’t as pronounced or is being met with the current amount of judges.
Nethercott said there are challenges to getting the bill to pass the full legislature, as it will cost money to have extra judges each with a salary of $165,000 a year.
“I think it will be a challenge, but I’m hopeful the legislature will recognize the importance of access to justice for the citizens of Wyoming and appropriate workloads for our judicial officers that are public servants as well,” Nethercott said. “Notably, it was a unanimous vote by the Judicial Committee to sponsor the bill for recognizing the need for all three judges in all three districts. I’m hopeful for it pass, but it’s never easy to add positions.”