By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s court system needs to adopt specific timelines for the resolution of cases, two Wyoming Supreme Court justices said.
Justices Keith Kautz and Michael Davis, in a special concurring opinion to a Supreme Court opinion in a custody case, said the failure of courts to issue timely decisions on cases destroys confidence in the judicial branch.
“Specific case completion timelines and requirements for issuing decisions within specific timeframes are needed to assure the due administration of justice,” the concurring opinion said.
A concurrence is a companion piece to a Supreme Court opinion in which a legal issue is raised in the opinion is discussed in depth.
The opinion generating the concurrence from Kautz and Davis had to do with a custody battle.
The mother in the case asked appealed a district court ruling giving shared custody to her and the child’s father, arguing in part that a delay of more 13 months between a hearing in the case and the issuance of a final order from the court was unreasonable and should result in the overturning of the lower court’s finding.
The case had already been on file for more than two years before the hearing.
Although the court’s finding was overturned on other grounds, justices found that the delay was not sufficient on its own to merit a reversal.
While Kautz and Davis agreed with the decision of justices, they said they felt compelled to comment on such delays.
“I find it necessary, regretfully, to comment further on mother’s complaint about the district court’s delay in rendering a decision,” said the concurrence, written by Kautz.
The special opinion noted that the “timely resolution of cases is fundamental to the judicial system” and said for the most part, Wyoming’s courts do an admirable job of providing timely rulings.
“Unfortunately, the timing in this case appears to fall far short of providing appropriate service service to litigants and of the typical performance of district courts,” it said.
The Wyoming District Judges’ Conference has adopted model time standards for cases, the opinion said, calling for 90% of domestic cases to be completed with 180 days of filing for 98% to be completed within one year.
“These standards may be admirable goals, but Wyoming citizens, litigants, attorneys and judges deserve more than goals,” it said.
It noted that some states have adopted requirements of 60 to 90 days for the settlement of such cases.
“It is incumbent on Wyoming’s judiciary to adopt specific timelines for both completion of court proceedings and issuance of decisions,” it said.