Franklin County Courthouse

The process is still unclear as the 20th Judicial Circuit prepares to take on municipal cases from the city of Washington.

Franklin County Circuit Clerk Bill D. Miller says he knows which judges will hear the cases, but not many more details about the transition at this time.

“We don’t know how much more caseload we will have,” Miller said. “Or, how the cases will come to us. I’m always ready to learn something.” He added municipal cases may trickle in each day or come in one lump at a certain time each month.

Judges

There are currently five resident judges in Franklin County and Miller said Associate Circuit Judges Stanley Williams and David Hoven will be hearing the municipal cases.

Judge Williams will hear cases for those with last names A through K and Judge Hoven will hear names L through Z.

Associate judges can hear cases under $25,000 and small claims under $5,000, but fines cannot exceed $225 in a municipal case.

The judges’ salaries are set by state statute and they will receive no additional compensation for the expanded workload.

Judges Williams and Hoven will hear cases involving traffic, nuisance and ordinance violations.

“We will just have to add the municipal cases to the workload,” Miller said. “The judges will have access to the individual municipal codes to assist in their rulings.”

Hearings

A tentative plan will be to hold the municipal hearings on the first and third Tuesday of each month with the second Tuesday also reserved for arguments if needed at the county judicial center in Union.

In the clerk’s office, the additional caseload will be handled by existing employees with no new personnel being hired.

Thus far, of the nine municipal courts listed in Franklin County, the city of Washington is the only municipality which has decided to dissolve their court, the door is still open for others.

“The only community we’ve spoken to is Gerald,” Miller said. “We haven’t heard from any other municipalities.”

Miller added the 20th Judicial Circuit has handled municipal cases for the Village of Miramiguoa Park for many years.

“It was set up in 2011,” Miller said. “It has been very limited. They have a campground in their community and they hired a retired police officer to help enforce speeding in and out of the area.”

Miller added the process took about two years and was facilitated by the Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA).

Fines

Although all casework will be done by employees of the circuit court, all levies and fines collected on behalf of the municipalities will go back to the individual communities and not to the circuit courts.

According to the current Washington municipal court rules, residents may plead guilty by utilizing the court’s electronic payment system, mail, paying in person during normal business hours, placing in a drop box after hours or by coming to court to pay fines.