Drop in Lawsuits Hurts State Courts
Judy Gibbs, Ap, THE JOURNAL RECORD
The number of civil lawsuits filed declined about 8.5 percent in fiscal year 1988, and other case filings were down from 17 percent for small claims to 1 percent for felonies, said Howard Conyers, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
The loss in revenue to Oklahoma courts already stands at about $700,000 this fiscal year, and that is expected to rise when court clerks finish submitting second quarter reports, said Jack Wampler, director of finance for the courts.
``I don't see the trend reversing,'' Wampler said, adding that if it continues, the court system will almost certainly have to ask the Legislature for a supplemental appropriation. He declined to speculate on how much additional money the courts would need.
Conyers told a House Appropriations subcommitee the financial problem is so severe that without additional funds, ``making payroll could be a real problem for us.'' The budget for district courts is about 98 percent personnel costs, he said.
The general court filing fee is $62, with a $35 fee for small claims. Those fees, along with fines and forfeitures go into the State Judicial Fund, one of two sources of revenue for Oklahoma courts. The other source is the appropriation made each year by the Legislature.
``If one side declines, the other has to pick it up, it's that simple,'' Conyers said. …