Wisconsin’s court clerks should not be charging people who make a copy of a court document using a cellphone camera or other device. That’s according to a formal opinion released Tuesday by outgoing Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who was asked to clarify the subject after an earlier opinion that said clerks could charge a fee.
The issue came to light after a newspaper reporter was asked to pay the Walworth County clerk $25 for 20 pages of court records that were copied using the camera on a phone. State courts director John Voelker asked Van Hollen for a more complete review of the matter, at the request of the state’s Freedom of Information Council.
Van Hollen said the state Open Records Law does not authorize fee collections when a person makes copies without the help of the court office. However, Van Hollen did say that clerks can choose their methods of copying, and they can prohibit users from making their own copies and charge the fees.
Clerks can charge $1.25 per page for copies of court records, which amounted to them collecting about $815,000 in fees during 2011.