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Posted on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Washtenaw County Trial Court raises records copy fees, removes billing option

By Heather Lockwood

People requesting copies of Washtenaw County Trial Court records must pay $2 a page — up from $1 previously — under a new rule that went into effect last July but was not fully enforced until this month. The administrative order also does away with an option to be billed for previously requested copies.

Barry Joseph, director of court services, said this week that the changes came at a time when all of the court's local administrative orders were being reviewed "to make sure they were still pertinent," and at a time when the cost of copying and billing for copies was being evaluated.

"We try to be as open with our records as possible," he said.

He said the price change was not necessarily related to the county's budget deficit, though, he added, "the court looks for ways to be able to enhance its revenue when it's justified."

• Click here to read the rule.

Joseph said the order to increase the cost of copies and to do away with a billing option was written by the court and approved by the State Court Administrative Office.

"That office sets a range that you can charge for records," he said. "Two dollars is the top of the range and we charged it."

The State Court Administrative Office suggests a price range of 25 cents to $2 per page for copies of court records, said Leslie Jenkins of the State Court Administrative Office public information office.

"The State Court Administrative Office does not routinely ask for any further explanation for the increase in the cost of copies ... if it's within that range," Jenkins said.

She added, "The reason we create this range is because the cost of making copies varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. ... The costs also vary depending on the type of request."

As for the elimination of the billing option, which has been enforced beginning this month, Joseph said he could no longer justify the time and resources spent billing people for copies.

Joseph said if an individual is on welfare or is indigent, the fees associated with copies they request may be waived by the court if the person's request is deemed reasonable. But, he said, he has never personally received such a request during the year he's been in his current position.

There is nothing posted at the Washtenaw County Trial Court to indicate to the public that such fees can be waived, Joseph said. That information is available online under Michigan Court Rules, he said.

A sign is posted at the court indicating that regular copies are $2 per page and certified copies are $10 per document, plus $1 per page. The order also sets a maximum of 30 copied pages per person per hour.

Joseph was not sure whether any advance notification of the fee increase was posted at the trial court, but said a notice was posted "sometime very close" to the time the changes went into effect.

Robert Carbeck, deputy trial court administrator, said the circuit court clerk's office made 42,724 copies at the request of individuals in 2010, resulting in a gross revenue of $59,371. That number does not include revenue from certified copies.

The breakdown in copies and revenue for the past year looks like this:

• January 2010 — 4,479 copies for a gross revenue of $4,479 • February — 4,508 copies, $4,508 • March — 4,984 copies, $4,984 • April — 4,501 copies, $4,501 • May — 3,638 copies, $3,638 • June — 3,966 copies, $3,966 • July — 2,912 copies, $5,823 • August — 3,292 copies, $6,583 • September — 2,752 copies, $5,504 • October — 3,360 copies, $6,719 • November — 1,916 copies, $3,831 • December — 2,418 copies, $4,835

Carbeck could not say how much it actually costs the court to provide copies of its records, but he said the cost is comprised of the actual material costs of the paper, ink, toner, and the cost of labor.

Correll Brown of Detroit said he understood the need for the fees, but thought $2 a page was excessive.

"I think it would be better if it was free, because $2 is a lot," he said on a January visit to the court, after paying for a single copy. "Two dollars for one little page."

He added, "I guess they're doing what they have to do."

At 14A District Court, copies are $1 for the first page, and 25 cents for each additional page, and payment must be made at the time service is rendered. Certified copies are $11 for for as many as three documents per file. And there is no limit on the number of copies a person can request.

An official with Wayne County's Frank Murphy Hall of Justice said copies of Third Judicial Circuit Court Criminal Division records cost $1 per page or $10 for certified copies, and there is no limit as to the number of copies a person can request.

According to the Jackson County website, copies of Jackson County Fourth Circuit Court records are 50 cents per page. Certified copies are $10 for the first page and $2 for each additional page.

Heather Lockwood is a reporter for Reach her at or follow her on Twitter.


Chase Ingersoll

Sat, Jan 29, 2011 : 3:07 a.m.

These are public records. Here is the fee authorized under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. The cost of paper and service for the copier can't be 5 cents a page, and if it is, the County needs to put those contracts out to bid. The cost of Clerk time....well maybe for the first page, but after pulling and sticking the first page in the copy machine, each additional page....should be like Jackson County. Bottom line it is a revenue maker, but how else is the County to pay the union scale wages, benefits and retirement for even for unskilled time that pulls a file and makes copies. And of course the Union would be opposed to the online/automation of this, the same way librarians would have opposed Google. Fees for Public Records: A government agency may charge a fee for the necessary copying of a public record for inspection or providing a copy of a public record to a requestor. A public body may also charge for search, examination and review and the separation of exempt information in those instances where failure to charge a fee would result in unreasonably high costs to the public body. The fee must be limited to actual duplication, mailing and labor costs. The first $20 of a fee must be waived for a person who is on welfare or presents facts showing inability to pay because of indigency.


Sat, Jan 29, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

Wayne County Circuit Court Civil Division has charged @2.25 per page for many years. At one point I recall someone filing a lawsuit against the court allegeing that the price was excessive but it was dismissed. The Michigan Consumer Protection Act bars the charging of excessive fees. But whether it can be enforced against a court is another question. The public has no alternative other than pay whatever the price is. I wonder what the head honcho there - Washtenaw County Circuit Court Clerk Larry Kestenbaum - believes justifies $2.00 per page.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

Any other pearls of wisdom from Mr Brown?


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

I don't get what all the uproar is about. The court has to provide these services; who better to pay? Those who use the services (get copies) or the tax-paying public?

Dr. Rockso

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

The courts and judges have been raiding the county general fund for years. The only difference between the judges and criminals is which side of the bars they are on.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

It would be hard for this court to provide paperless copies because it doesn't have electronic files. Many other courts have made their way into the twenty-first century by requiring electronic filing. For those courts, files can be viewed online without having to go to the courthouse. But not at the Washtenaw County Trial Court.

Jim Kress

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

Have these Neanderthals ever heard of the "paperless society"? Why can they not provide requested materials via electronic copies so no office supplies, and little labor, are required? This is just another attempt to place a barrier between citizens and the government so that the citizens cannot find out how they are being abused by their "public servants". What ever happened to "Transparency"? It appears this court defines Transparency as "making government actions hard to understand; not clear or lucid; obscure".


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

The write up is right! I was just in Jackson County Court House a few months ago with my niece too get a copy of her divorce papers from 14 years ago and only paid 1.50 for all three pages. Keep it up Washtenaw you will tax all the people out the door too live here and/or get the papers need.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

When will someone try to control those judges. They took over the Washtenaw County Building and changed it to a Courthouse. It just takes a walk past all the empty courtrooms to see that there are too many judges. But they refused to share space and kicked out the district judges. They won't even share staff. Each judge has a secretary and a judicial assistant (aka law clerk).


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

"the court looks for ways to be able to enhance its revenue when it's justified." Go for it Barry, we the Public are Loaded. Heck, charge more... we can't do anything about it can we?