The Gerald Board of Aldermen has moved to begin the process of eliminating the city’s municipal court, according to Mayor Cary Parker.
The action is in response to a September 2016 Supreme Court operating rule that imposes new segregations of powers and staffing requirements, among other stipulations.
“This is not something that happens overnight,” Parker said, noting that after an ordinance is drafted, the board will have the chance to approve it. Once the initial steps are complete, additional ordinances will need to be passed, he said.
Joe Purschke, a prosecutor for the city, said it can take up to six months for the state court to begin taking municipal offenses.
Purschke said he didn’t have strong feelings either way about disbanding, but Parker said disbanding will only help the city.
“After it’s all said and done, what we believe this means to the city is less of a financial strain on the city (in not operating a municipal court),” Parker said.
The city will retain fees from ordinance violations and the circuit court retains the court costs, he added.
Municipal ordinances, codes, laws and fines will not change.
“We are moving forward with this because we believe we lose nothing other than there is an inconvenience of having to drive to Union for court versus it being at city hall,” the mayor said.
Prior to initiating the disbanding, Parker said the board of aldermen met with Municipal Judge Dan Leslie, who outlined pros and cons to both scenarios.
An advantage, he added, is that as additional requirements for municipal courts are established, the burden of compliance will not be on the city.
One disadvantage is that the city will “lose a little bit of the local touch,” he said.
Washington will disband its municipal court while Union and St. Clair officials have said they don’t have plans to do so.