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Court: Pulaski County clerk must explain record fees

by John Lynch | April 30, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
The Arkansas Supreme Court is shown in this file photo.

Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Terri Hollingsworth must explain how she assesses the costs of providing some court records at a hearing to be conducted by Circuit Judge Tim Fox, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision, written by Justice Shawn Womack, arises from a 2015 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that law school professor and open-records authority Robert Steinbuch brought against his employer, the UALR Bowen School of Law.

The fees the clerk can charge are established under Arkansas Code 21-6-402, which sets a $2.50 per-page cost for reproducing transcripts for appeal. Steinbuch disputes that he should have to pay the circuit clerk's office $834 for records he got from the clerk that he used in the litigation and further questions how Hollingsworth arrived at the total.

The ruling Thursday states that the only way to figure how the clerk's office came to that amount is for Hollingsworth to explain and let Fox, who presided over the lawsuit, decide whether the bill is appropriate.

In challenging the costs Hollingsworth assessed him, Steinbuch questions whether circuit clerks can charge that same per-page amount for copying non-transcript documents that are part of the court record, which have lower fees.

Steinbuch further questions what clerks can charge when the records in question are purely digital, arguing that a different cost assessment applies for non-page records.

The courts have resolved Steinbuch's lawsuit with Bowen over his efforts to obtain test scores, grades and bar exam scores of graduates, so the school is not involved in this issue.

Steinbuch, represented by Little Rock attorney Chris Corbitt, has been to the high court three times for various issues during the course of the litigation.

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