New Law Changes Municipal Court Administration and Procedure

Municipal Law Alert, August 2010

On May 18, 2010, Governor Doyle signed a bill into law which made numerous changes to the rules governing municipal court administration, judges and procedures. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2011. The changes are too numerous to list here. This article will highlight some of the major changes.

The new law revises rules that guide municipal courts and judges. Changes were made to rules that govern the budgeting process for municipal courts, the election terms of municipal judges, the office and workspace provided for municipal judges and the hiring and work responsibilities of court personnel.

The new law addresses and attempts to cure the public perception that the municipal judge and law enforcement are inseparable or in collusion. For instance, each municipal court must have a telephone number or extension separate from any other governmental department. Additionally, the municipal court clerk may not wear anything that implies he or she is a law enforcement employee.

The content and service of a municipal citation or complaint were also affected by the law change. A municipal summons and complaint can now be served by first class mail, in addition to the previous acceptable methods of service. Other changes involve the procedures for amending a citation or complaint, the procedures for mandatory appearances, the timing of commencement of an action and filing procedures for the proof of service of a citation or complaint.

Other notable changes to the rules governing municipal court administration include rules regarding the recusal of municipal judges, the transfer of cases as a result of a judicial substitution request, and the municipal court’s ability to order community service in lieu of restitution.

There are numerous other changes to municipal court procedures made under the new law. An in-depth analysis of the changes can be found in the Senate Bill’s Legislative Analysis, available at the following website: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/SB-383.pdf. If a municipality would like more information on the changes outlined above or additional changes in the law, it should contact its municipal attorney.

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