Washtenaw County Trial Court raises records copy fees, removes billing option
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."
â€¢ 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:
â€¢ January 2010 — 4,479 copies for a gross revenue of $4,479 â€¢ February — 4,508 copies, $4,508 â€¢Â March — 4,984 copies, $4,984 â€¢ April — 4,501 copies, $4,501 â€¢Â May — 3,638 copies, $3,638 â€¢Â June — 3,966 copies, $3,966 â€¢Â July — 2,912 copies, $5,823 â€¢ August — 3,292 copies, $6,583 â€¢ September — 2,752 copies, $5,504 â€¢ October — 3,360 copies, $6,719 â€¢Â November — 1,916 copies, $3,831 â€¢ 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 AnnArbor.com. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.