By Molly Messick
Laramie, Wy – A group called the Wyoming Access to Justice Commission has completed a series of public meetings on the need for state-funded civil legal services. That's aid for low income people to help them handle civil legal issues like divorce and custody disputes and debt collection. Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Jim Burke chairs the Access to Justice Commission. He says the group is proposing that the legislature increase court filing fees by ten dollars to fund the services.
"There is no statewide legal services program, and we can no longer pretend that there is. That's a given now. And we're at the point where the state has to make a decision. And as a state they can either admit that there is a problem and choose to do nothing. Or they can take steps to address the problem."
Burke says the filing fee increase would raise about 1-point-5 million dollars each year, and that money would be administered through the judicial branch. Wyoming is one of only two states in the country that doesn't provide funding for civil legal aid.