The final court date for the Washington Municipal Court is scheduled for Dec. 19.

After then, misdemeanors and ordinance violations that originated in Washington will be sent to the 20th Judicial District Circuit Court in Union.

An agreement approved by the city council Monday outlines the transfer of cases from the city’s municipal court to the 20th Judicial District Circuit Court in Union.

In June, the council agreed to shut down the city court in response to a 2016 Supreme Court operating rule that imposes new segregations of powers and staffing requirements, among other stipulations. The Washington Municipal Court officially disbands Dec. 31. 

The ordinance is an agreement between the Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA), the city of Washington, Information Technologies, Inc., the Circuit Court of Franklin County and the city of Washington prosecutor.

Beginning next year, anyone with a misdemeanor ticket or ordinance violation issued in Washington would have to attend a hearing in front of a 20th District Associate Circuit Court judge. 

The city would still receive the fine money, but court costs would likely be split between the city and the circuit court.

The ordinance approved in June states adjusted fees beginning Jan. 1, 2018, including a $7 court automation fund and increased court costs of $15 from $12. The fees were recommended by OSCA. 

Councilman Jeff Patke asked to see a report of the funds given to the city from fines and court costs collected next year compared to those collected this year. 

“The fines go up and down,” said Mark Piontek, Washington city attorney. “It is not the same from year to year.”

Councilman Joe Holtmeier added the city will no longer pay a judge nor a court clerk. 

Court Changes

Supreme Court operating “Rule 37” requires the municipal court be in a separate facility than the city’s police department. Court currently takes place in the basement of the Public Safety building located at 301 Jefferson St.

The Supreme Court operating rule also stipulates that a dedicated court clerk be available 30 hours a week to accept payments, and the employee cannot be employed by another city department. The Washington Municipal Court clerk, Cindy Buescher, is employed by the police department.

The Washington municipal judge is elected by voters. Currently it is Judge Craig Hellmann. 

Agreement

Under Monday’s agreement, the OSCA will develop and maintain the software that accepts and loads cases into the statewide case management system.

The state court will maintain the transfer software related to the electronic exchange of case filing information and coordinate the testing of the electronic case filing process.

The circuit court will review and modify data as necessary, and accept when appropriate, the initial case filings electronically. It will enter a case into the statewide case management system if the municipal prosecuting attorney files initiating documents with the court that have not been received electronically and timeliness of filing is requested.

The city prosecutor will file the signed tickets or amended tickets with the court prior to the court accepting the electronic data, and will use the state-approved charge code.

The city will provide the prosecutor with either a written or electronic copy of all tickets for which data will be transferred to the court.