Star Prairie forced to reinstate municipal courtThe Village of Star Prairie had hoped to abolish its municipal court and save the village about $3,000 annually, but the action came a little too late.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
The Village of Star Prairie had hoped to abolish its municipal court and save the village about $3,000 annually, but the action came a little too late.
The village board voted to abolish the court in March, but in June Chief Judge Benjamin D. Proctor ordered the village to reinstate it.
According to Wisconsin law, municipalities are able to abolish courts at the end of an elected or appointed judge’s term.
The term for Judge Eva Hansen, who was judge at the time, was set to end May 1 and she was not seeking re-election.
The board would have been in the clear to abolish the court if it had not been for the January caucus to gather nominations for the then upcoming spring 2011 election, said Patsy Johnson, village clerk.
“It was just the timing of everything,” she said. “It needed to be prior to the caucus.”
According to the court order from Proctor, Todd Naylor was nominated and placed on the spring 2011 non-partisan election ballot by the Village of Star Prairie.
Because Naylor technically won the election on April 5, it was required that he be sworn into office and that the court not be abolished until Naylor’s term expired.
The issue doesn’t end there.
To add to the problems, Naylor resigned from his judge responsibilities on June 13.
“I got a voicemail from him explaining that he had taken on additional responsibilities and that it would be impossible for him to perform his judge duties,” Johnson said.
Naylor’s resignation prompted the village board to appoint Ashley Hinrichs, who ran against Naylor as a registered write in, as the new municipal judge.
“She got the second most votes,” said Trustee Gary Peterson at the meeting on Wednesday, July 6.
The board had hoped to abolish the court to help save the village about $3,000 annually and avoid any added costs as a result of new requirements for villages with municipal courts.
Some of the required changes include providing a separate office and phone number for the judge and clerk of courts. Previously, court was held in the village clerk’s office.
Without a municipal court all court cases would have been transferred to the county and held in the government building in Hudson.
It’s unknown whether the village will attempt the abolishment of the court again when Hinrichs’ term expires. The discussion on that topic was tabled at Wednesday’s meeting.