The Southern Standard, by Charles W. Johnson —
The city of Morrison moved to establish a municipal court, complete with a judge, at the regular meeting of its Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday night.
McMinnville attorney John Partin, who works at the law offices of Galligan and Newman, has been chosen as Morrison’s new municipal judge and will hear cases brought before the court. City recorder Jaime Ashby will function as court clerk and court will be held in the city hall.
The court’s jurisdiction is limited to violations of municipal ordinances.
Upon conviction, violators will face a fine not to exceed $50 plus court costs, and will have the right to appeal any conviction to the circuit court of Warren County.
Morrison officials say the city believes this move is a necessary step at this stage in its growth and that the court will be an effective deterrent against violations of city ordinances. The court is scheduled to begin operation in January of 2006.
Morrison Mayor Bobby Prater said one of the main reasons for decision to set up the court was to put some teeth into city ordinances.
“It’s on account of the leash law and the yards that were grown up,” Prater said. “Things like that we were having trouble enforcing. This should help things.”
Morrison city attorney John LaBar advised the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to set up the system.
“When they asked me how to enforce all the ordinances on the books, the answer was a town judge,” LaBar said. “And there was no town judge, so we set up the town court.”
Partin talked about how the system will work and how far his jurisdiction will stretch.
“I think initially we’re going to limit ourselves to violations of city ordinances and sort of get our feet wet that way,” said Partin, “and then explore the possibilities of introducing some traffic elements to it as well somewhere down the road.
“Also my jurisdiction is limited in that the maximum punishment I can give is civil in nature and would be a $50 fine plus the court costs. And then my decision can in turn be appealed to the circuit court of Warren County.”
But both LaBar and Partin said traffic offenses won’t be the focus of the court, at least at first. LaBar said any tickets in Morrison are generally handed out by county deputies and will be heard in McMinnville as they have been in the past.
“But the municipality is allowed, I believe, to hear anything within its borders,” LaBar said. “Up until now, if you violated an ordinance you could be issued a fine but the problem is there was no judge to hear it.”
LaBar said the main problems the court would address would be leash laws, overgrown property, public nuisances and zoning ordinances.
Once citations are issued, the court would set up a docket with the city attorney acting as prosecutor. Appeals of decisions would be made to Judge Bart Stanley.
One of the items that will have to be addressed is appointing someone to issue citations.
“The board here is empowered to select a codes enforcer,” LaBar said. “I think there was one part time in the past, but that’s a topic I think we’ll bring up.”