Commission approves code change to allow for part-time judge appointment

Commissioners unanimously approved changes to city code to all for the part-time Municipal Court judge that was included in the city budget approved in July.

State law requires that the number of Municipal Court judges be set by ordinance by the governing body. The elected Municipal Court judge may appoint a properly qualified part-time judge to serve during the elected judge’s term, according to state law.

The ordinance recommended by city staff, and adopted by commissioners, establishes qualifications of, and regulations pertaining to, the newly approved part-time judge.

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Adoption of the ordinance allows Municipal Court Judge Steve Bolstad, who was elected, to appoint an assistant judge who will be qualified and ready to serve before the Jan. 1 start date, according to the staff report.

The ordinance change also corrects minor grammatical errors in previously adopted language.

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Commissioner Mary Moe said she was concerned that the ordinance didn’t say the part-time judge was budget permitting, but city staff said that since the commission sets the budget, they determine whether the position is funded or not.

City Attorney Sara Sexe said she doesn’t anticipate there being a reduction in the need for a second judge.

City Manager Greg Doyon said that once they hire new staff in the court to assist the new judge, there’s really no going back on the staff side. He said that staffing and space will continue to be an issue in Municipal Court, which has little room to expand in the basement of the Civic Center and that’s why staff has been looking at other options for rearranging offices and staff around the Civic Center and other city-owned buildings.

Commissioner Bill Bronson said the commission retained the ultimate budget authority on funding a part-time municipal judge and that it didn’t come as a surprise.

“We’ve sort of seen this coming,” for the last few years, he said.

The total approved compensation package for the assistant judge for the fiscal year that runs through June 30, 2020 is $23,188.

Orders by a part-time judge have the same force and effect as those of the elected judge, according to the city staff report.