Monroe wants own municipal court

MONROE — City leaders want to establish a municipal court in Monroe by 2015.

Monroe contracts with the county district courts system to process misdemeanors, citations and traffic infractions, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said. Felony cases are handled in Snohomish County Superior Court in downtown Everett.

In 2011, Monroe had to hire a pro tempore judge to process the extra infractions from the traffic-enforcement cameras that went live that year.

City staff got used to handling tickets, Willis said.

“We were kind of forced into the position of running it ourselves,” she said. “It has become a pretty efficient system.”

The city has no complaints about the services from the county, and the partnership has been productive, Willis said.

Still, city staff believe a municipal court would save them time and money, she said. With some infractions, the city pays court filing fees that cost more than potential revenue from fines.

People in town also would get more direct access to court services, Willis said. People already call and visit the Monroe police station with questions about court cases.

“We get calls all day long concerning court issues,” she said.

Larger cities in Snohomish County maintain municipal courts, such as Everett, Marysville and Lynnwood.

None do east of Everett along the U.S. 2 corridor, though.

Monroe currently budgets about $170,000 a year for court costs with Evergreen District Court along 179th Avenue SE. That doesn’t include the judge who handles traffic-camera tickets.

Evergreen District Court serves a huge part of Snohomish County east of Everett.

Monroe’s cases make up a relatively small percentage of the court’s overall workload and budget, presiding Judge Patricia Lyon said.

Evergreen District Court wouldn’t see a significant impact if Monroe established a municipal court, she said.

“We have enjoyed providing court services for the city of Monroe, and we look forward to continuing to have a good working relationship with them,” she said.

For a municipal court, the city would have to hire a court administrator and a part-time judge, Willis said. Support staffing would be drawn from existing city personnel.

The City Council agreed to move forward with the plan in January.

The court would operate out of council chambers at City Hall, according to the proposal by Police Chief Tim Quenzer. Set-up costs are estimated at $11,100. Estimated annual costs to run the court, including staffing, are $166,518.

The two-year wait covers the existing agreement with the county courts and some technicalities based on judicial election cycles. In general, civil cases still would go to county courts.

The movement toward a municipal court won’t change, regardless of what happens with traffic-enforcement cameras, Willis said.

Mayor Robert Zimmerman has said the city has no plans to renew its traffic-camera contract when it expires later this year.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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