COUNTY LAW LIBRARY PURSUING NEW COURT FEES in Texas

 

Posted: January 23, 2015 -

County Law Library fees in Kentucky have dropped.  Isn’t it time for the Legislature to increase court costs to allow proper funding of Kentucky’s County Law Libraries?

Stan Billingsley, LawReader.com

By MATT DOTRAY

A-J MEDIA

The shelves at the Lubbock County Law Library aren’t as full as they used to be.

Nan Hadley, the county’s law librarian, is hoping to change that by getting a bill through the state legislature that would create new funding through court fees.

The county’s law library is located on the third floor of the courthouse annex building, and is open to the public for legal research. Attorneys, court staff, law students, and basically anybody interested in the justice system can, and do, visit the library.

Walking through it can be a bit overwhelming. The books date back for decades, and are categorized in areas like Texas codes, Texas family law practice, real estate forms, advising elderly clients, criminal law materials and court of appeals. Commonly used forms and documents people needs, such as filing for divorce, are located near the front.

Hadley is there to help people navigate through it all. She’s also in charge of the library’s budget, which has been decreasing in recent years.

The Lubbock County Law Library does not get money from the county’s general fund. Rather, they operate through $35 payments that are taxed onto each civil case filed in the county or district court. So, when cases are filed in the district and county clerk’s office, other than suits for delinquent taxes, there’s a $35 charge the library receives.

But the revenue they get from that has been dropping in recent years.

According to information provided by the library, the revenue from the clerk’s fees has decreased from $191,707 in fiscal year 2009-10, to about $172,000 in fiscal year 2013-14.

“It’s been dropping and we don’t know why,” Hadley said. “We think part of it was when they raised the statutory limit for small claims, and so cases moved from the higher courts to the justice courts. We think that’s part of it. But we also think with the economy being the way it is, more people are filing affidavits of indigence so they’re not paying a filing fee. We think that’s part of it.”

Because of the drop in revenue, Hadley has had to cut a number of books from third-party publishers.

She said the library will be able to spend $78,000 on books this year, down about $10,000 from the previous years.

“I’ve cut and I’ve cut and I don’t know what else to do,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do because I’m locked into contracts. There’s only so much I can cut.”

What Hadley is doing is trying to get a bill passed that would add a $5 fee for each case filed in justice courts, which the law libraries would receive.

Hadley said she has spoken with other law librarians in Texas, and found that many are having similar budget difficulties. So Hadley, along with the help of others in the court administration department, crafted the resolution and bill that she hopes to get taken up in the 84th state legislature.

Lubbock County commissioners agreed with a 4-0 vote in May 2014 to endorse a proposal, and now several other law libraries in the state are crafting similar proposals to take to their commissioners, as well.

To get the bill introduced in the 84th legislature, Hadley contacted and sent the bill to the staff of Rep. John Frullo and Sen. Charles Perry’s offices.

As of Friday, a member of Frullo’s office has contacted Hadley and said they’re still considering all of his bill requests. In Perry’s office, Travis McCormick, spokesperson, said their policy analyst has studied the bill and contacted other law librarians, who were in agreement with Hadley’s efforts.

Due to the packed agenda, McCormick said it is likely that Perry will not introduce the bill, but instead, will advise his staff to attempt to get it added into the omnibus bill, which packages many regular bills into one.

McCormick said they are still waiting to hear back from the Committee on Jurisprudence, who monitor the implementation of the omnibus bill.

matthew.dotray@gmail.com

 

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