Breckenridge Texan

Municipal Court to be relocated; Justice of the Peace to preside over city cases

Municipal Court to be relocated; Justice of the Peace to preside over city cases
January 12
10:58 2022

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

On Monday, Stephens County Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement to combine the City of Breckenridge Municipal Court office with the Justice (JP) Court in the Stephens County Courthouse.

That means beginning Feb. 1, when someone receives a ticket or citation from the Breckenridge Police Department or other citation from the city and requests a trial, their case will be heard in the Justice Court Room by Justice of the Peace Steve Spoon. Also, all tickets and fines for the city will now be paid in that office.

However, before the agreement goes into effect, it will have to be approved by the Breckenridge City Commission at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Under the agreement, the Breckenridge City Commission will appoint Justice of the Peace Steve Spoon as the City’s Municipal Court Judge for a two-year term beginning on Feb. 1. Spoon will be responsible for magistrating defendants who are charged in the municipal court, issuing seizure warrants and conducting animal hearings for the city. Although Spoon will be presiding over both courts, his salary will remain the same.

The Municipal Court Clerk will relocate to the JP’s office, as well.

“We had to eliminate that position (Municipal Court Judge),” said Breckenridge City Manager Erika McComis. “Our number of citations are really low. It doesn’t support two full-time positions in the court. … We only average about 30 to 40 citations a month, and until you get to over 300, you don’t need a full-time judge.”

Spoon will be required to complete 16 hours of municipal training, which the City of Breckenridge will pay for. If a different person is elected as Justice of Peace while the agreement is in place, the City Commission will remove the previous JP from the municipal office and appoint the new JP as Municipal Court Judge.

Also under the agreement, the City’s Municipal Court records, phone numbers and other equipment will be relocated to the JP’s Court offices in the Stephens County Courthouse. Once the office is relocated, the City’s Municipal Court will hold all hearings and trials in the JP courtroom with the Justice of the Peace presiding.

Although the records and files from each court will be housed in the same office, they will remain separate. Fines and court costs collected from each court will remain separate. All the fines and court costs collected by the Municipal Court will be the property of the city, and fines and court costs collected by the JP court will belong to the County.

The salary and benefits for the Municipal Court Clerk will be paid by the City, and the salary and benefits for the Justice Court Clerk will be paid for by the County. Both clerks will be cross-trained to help out in each court.

All Municipal Court cases and Justice Court cases will be tried in the Justice Court room with Spoon presiding. According to the contract, the City Attorney or Deputy City Attorney will prosecute the Municipal Court cases, and the County Attorney or Deputy County Attorney will prosecute the the Justice Court cases.

Stephens County Judge Michael Roach said the consolidation move will provide savings for both the City and County and by cross training the clerks, there will be a higher level of service for taxpayers.

“I think, at the end of the day…it ends up being better for the taxpayer in the long term, for the expenses being cut by consolidation, which is a good thing,” Roach said. “And then, they have one place to come. When I was JP…and Judge Spoon says it still happens…people come with a city ticket, wanting to pay here, and vice versa…so I think, at the end of the day, the citizen who’s paying for both courts ends up paying for one.”

Interlocal Fire Protection agreement

During their meeting, County Commissioners also approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Breckenridge for fire protection services in the county. The agreement, which is for one year and must be renewed each year, still has to be approved by Breckenridge City Commissioners at their Jan. 18 meeting before it becomes final.

Although the county and city have shared the cost and operation of the fire department for many years, they’ve never had a written agreement. Roach said the agreement approved on Monday is a more formal understanding of services and obligations on each party.

Both Roach and McComis have said that under the agreement there will be no change in how the fire department responds to fire and other emergencies in the city and county.

According to the agreement, the county will pay the city $4,166.67 per month plus half the cost for fuel and maintenance costs.

Other Business

In other business, Commissioners approved the Bias-based Profiling Report presented by Stephens County Sheriff Kevin Roach, approved a contract between the Stephens County Airport and Republic Services for trash service and approved a joint resolution and statistical information for the upcoming joint primary election.

Commissioners also opened and accepted bids for the purchase of fuel by the county. The bids approved were Fred Garrison Oil Company-Alstar Fuels, 15 cents off their posted pump price for unleaded gasoline and diesel; PF&E Oil Company, 5 cents off the posted pump price for unleaded gasoline and diesel; and Graham Y Fuels, 3 cents off their posted pump price on unleaded gasoline and diesel. They also authorized the Stephens Regional Special Utility District to cross Stephens County Road 313 in Precinct 4 to install a 1-inch poly water line and the Fort Griffin SUD to cross County 221 to install a meter for a newly built home. They also approved the formation of a County Dispute Resolution fund and Stephens County’s Participation in the Regional Public Defenders for Capital Cases.

 

Cutline, top photo: The Stephens County Commissioners Court, pictured here on Nov. 29, approved an interlocal agreement to combine the City of Breckenridge Municipal Court office with the Justice (JP) Court at their meeting Monday, Jan. 10. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

 

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