Three judges in Wyoming's Sixth Judicial District are handling the court's weighted caseload that should be handled by four judges. That's why Gillette Sen. Michael Von Flatern said it's time to hire a new judge for the district, which covers Campbell, Weston and Crook Counties.
Von Flatern said his proposed bill would only lay groundwork for getting a new judge.
"My bill will only say that, if passed, that Campbell County will build a fourth [courtroom] for the fourth judge, but yet it will be up to judiciary committee and/or appropriations committee to sponsor the fourth judge. If they don't run a bill, we don't get it," he said.
The new judge would likely be based in Gillette, to lessen the travel costs associated with a district judge, but would also travel to Newcastle and Sundance.
"It's very hard to base it in Newcastle and spend four days or five days a week some weeks in a hotel in Gillette," he said.
All three of the current district court judges are based in Campbell County. Von Flatern said he decided to propose the bill after the judges approached him about the issue.
The construction of a new district courtroom came up at a recent Campbell County Commission meeting as county officials discussed future improvements to the courthouse and a building across the street that the county purchased from Cloud Peak Energy.
In the discussion, county officials said a new courtroom should be considered a high priority in the plans. One possibility suggested was turning a current circuit courtroom into a district courtroom, but that would require building a secure path for the judge to move between their office and the courtroom.
The Sixth Judicial District's high capacity workload is only second to the Third District, which covers Sweetwater, Uinta and Lincoln Counties.
According to the bill, the district would only get a new judge if Campbell County makes the space and if the judiciary and appropriations committees allocate the funding.
Devils Tower Sen. Ogden Driskill, Gillette Rep. Eric Barlow (R-Campbell, Converse) and Rep. Tyler Lindholm (R-Weston, Crook) are co-sponsoring the bill.
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