News

Sequim eyes municipal court

A municipal court would break even the first couple of years due to start up costs but then could bring in $45,000 a year, the Sequim City Council was told at its Monday night meeting.

Executive assistant Marci Protze said the reasons for establishing a municipal court now are the city's growth and a statutory deadline.

Between 2004 and 2007, the city's number of infractions increased 632 percent and its number of criminal citations increased 253 percent, she said.

Due to state laws and contracts with Clallam County, if the city doesn't establish a municipal court by Jan. 1, 2010, it can't establish one until Jan. 1, 2014, Protze said.

A municipal court also would provide an increased level of customer service for Sequim residents, especially those seeking anti-harassment or restraining orders or dealing with a civil impound, she said.

It also would reduce the city prosecutor's travel time and keep the city's police officers in the city instead of traveling to Port Angeles, Protze said.

The court could be located in the current city council chambers and then in the new police station, she said.

Prisoner transport could be an issue but the first appearance can be done by video and much of the necessary technology already is in place, Protze said.

A city employee could be converted to a half-time city employee and half-time court clerk and the bailiffs could be volunteers, she said.

Protze said the state has 127 municipal courts and the four that most closely resemble

Sequim are Bonney Lake and Sumner in Pierce County, Milton, which is in both King and Pierce counties and Port Orchard in Kitsap County.

The court administrator would have to be hired by Oct. 1, 2009, so the court could begin Jan. 1, 2010, she said.

Interim city manager Bob Spinks said options are available for the few prisoner transports that would be necessary every year since a vast majority of cases don't go to trial.

Protze said another option is a "traffic bureau" that would have less authority than a municipal court but still keep the city from paying the court filing fees.

Spinks said that option would require the District Court's approval.

Clallam County Judge Rick Porter said he had no issue with either decision the council could make, adding that a municipal court could help relieve an overloaded court docket.

An infraction bureau would let the city process its own traffic tickets unless they are contested, which would have to be done in District Court, he said.

Protze said she would return with more information on the traffic bureau and projected 2010 costs.



We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 17 edition online now. Browse the archives.