For the second time a judge has ruled in favor of Franklin County in a lawsuit that challenged a Missouri bill that authorized creation of the county’s municipal court.
Several citizens filed the suit over a House bill that set the population for a county to have a municipal court.
Associate Circuit Judge Robert Schollmeyer ruled that the Missouri House bill did not violate certain provisions of the Missouri Constitution. The population set in the House bill allowed Franklin County to establish its own municipal court.
“Obviously this is fantastic,” Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said. “We’re very thankful for the judge’s ruling.”
A plaintiff, Art LeBeau of Villa Ridge, said he plans to appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.
“I’m not going to let the issue die by no means,” LeBeau said Thursday before reading the judge’s ruling.
The plaintiffs represented themselves in the case and are not attorneys. They have filed other litigation against the county in the past.
Griesheimer is not surprised that LeBeau will appeal, saying the plaintiffs have wasted county time and money on frivolous litigation.
County Auditor Tammy Vemmer says she is not aware of any other legal costs that went into defending this case other than the $5,500 a month that the county already pays the law firm of Purschke, White, Robinson and Becker to be assistant county counselors.
The lawsuit was not even about the municipal court, Griesheimer said. He said the real issue was that plaintiffs Eric Reichert and LeBeau wrongly viewed the municipal court as a “backdoor” approach to bringing charter government to Franklin County. That has never been the intention, Griesheimer said, adding, “They are never going to be convinced.”
LeBeau said he thinks a lot of people saw the county municipal court as a step toward charter government, but he said that was not the reason for his lawsuit.
The reason for his lawsuit was to challenge the constitutionality of the House bill that set the population a county must have in order to create a municipal court, he said.
LeBeau said he is indeed against charter government and that Franklin County should keep its rural flavor.
LeBeau argued in his lawsuit that the bill authorizing the county’s new municipal court was unconstitutional.
He said the bill contained two subject matters and that its original purpose changed when it was amended to include language about county municipal court. The amendment dealt with how much population a county must have in order to establish a county municipal court.
But the court found that the bill did not violate the single subject or original purpose provisions of the Missouri Constitution.
The Constitution states that no bill shall contain more than one subject or be amended to change its original purpose.
The original version of the bill changed the age from up to 15 1/2 to 15 that a juvenile court has jurisdiction over a child for state and local traffic cases.
Language was then added to the bill to change the population that a county must have in order to establish a municipal court.
Adding the language about the municipal court to the juvenile court bill did not change the original purpose or add another subject to the bill because the overall purpose of the bill was still the court system, the judge found.
Municipal courts and juvenile courts are both part of the overall circuit court system, Schollmeyer noted in his ruling.
“This court finds that House Bill 1171 does not contain more than one subject because all of its provisions relate to the same subject, namely ‘courts,’...”
Moreover, the bill language concerning the age a child must be to have traffic cases heard in juvenile court is related to the municipal court language, the judge said. That’s because county municipal courts handle traffic cases.
But LeBeau said juvenile court and county municipal court are two completely different kinds of courts and should not be in the same bill.
This is the second time Schollmeyer has rejected the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. The first time he rejected the case he said the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue the county in the matter.
The plaintiffs, including LeBeau and Reichert of Villa Ridge, then took the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, which ruled that they did have standing to sue in the matter because they are citizens.
“It will just have to go back up there (to the Supreme Court) again and let them rule on it,” LeBeau said.