VIII. Municipal Court

Parenthetical numbers in the text refer to sections of the current Revised Statutes of Missouri, abbreviated as RSMo.
The options

The city may choose where and before whom city ordinance violations will be tried. The board of aldermen may appoint a resident or non-resident to serve as municipal judge. If city population exceeds 7,500 or if the city is in a first-class charter county, the municipal judge must be a member of the Missouri Bar (an attorney) or complete an approved course for municipal judges within six months of appointment (479.020).

A second option is to use the associate circuit court in the county as municipal court to hear ordinance violations. The courtroom may be the regular one of the judge at the courthouse or be in a "suitable courtroom" provided by the city and approved by the judge (479.060).

Qualifications of appointee; costs

If the city chooses to appoint its own judge, that person must be at least 21 years old and less than 75 years old. The judge may not hold any other municipal office. The city determines salary of the judge and collected court costs become city revenue. Fines levied for ordinance violations become general city funds. If the city chooses to use the associate circuit as the municipal court, the salary of the judge is paid by the state and court costs becoming state revenues. In both cases, fines levied by the court are remitted to the city by the court.

An important consideration

Whichever option is chosen, it's crucial that the judge be familiar with the city's ordinances and the reasons for their adoption. If the city chooses a judge who doesn't live in the city, care must be exercised to ensure that he or she is aware of changes made to ordinances, those that have been repealed and new ordinances that have been adopted.

As a matter of policy, the board of aldermen should instruct the clerk to mail (by certified mail) or hand-deliver ordinance changes to the municipal judge.

Court supervision and accounting

Whichever option is chosen, the municipal court remains a division of the circuit court and under supervision of the presiding judge of that circuit. Periodic reports are required. The state auditor will make periodic audits to examine the municipal and other court divisions. These audits often identify lax procedures for fiscal accountability.

The board should consider requesting regular monthly reports from municipal court. This allows the board to be up to date on fines assessed, portions collected, outstanding amounts owed and similar matters that may cause courts trouble.