Three Resources to Inform Your City about Municipal Court

We feel it is very important for courts to share information about issues related criminal justice, municipal courts, fines and costs, and the public perception of the courts with their cities. Here are three resources that you should be aware of:

1. Attend Texas Municipal League’s Annual Conference with City Staff

Not only will spending time with them give you opportunities to communicate about concerns facing the court, but you can encourage them to attend Ryan Turner’s presentation on Thursday, October 11, 2018 entitled “Between City Hall and Municipal Court: How City Officials Can Promote Public Safety and Confidence in the Legal System. The session is in room 204 of the Fort Worth Convention Center from 2:00-3:15 p.m.

2. Share TMCEC’s Webpage for Cities: C3

Last year, TMCEC began a new initiative called C# which stands for Council, Courts, and Cities. It is our goal to provide you with information that you can share with your Mayor, Council, and City Managers on a regular basis. Some of the information may be appropriate to share with editorial boards of your local newspapers or in community forums.

The main feature on the webpage now is The BriefThe Brief contains information that TMCEC thinks your city leaders need to be made aware of. You may adapt it or simply forward it to local leaders as is. Or, even better, set up a bimonthly meeting with your local leaders to educate them about your municipal court.

Currently, there are seven issues of The Brief available, all of which provide and opportunity to communicate with and educate your cities about municipal courts.

The Brief is e-blasted out to all municipal judges. The information for cities can be found at http://tmcec.com/cities/. The webpage is still being developed–check back for much more content to be rolled out this fiscal year.

3. Share the Upcoming Video “Role of the Municipal Court”

TMCEC staff attorneys have recently collaborated to update a video that getting a little long in the tooth. The script has been re-envisioned, and production is in progress. Be on the lookout for the completed project in the coming months. There will be some very good information in the video that your city could benefit from. See the following brief excerpt from the upcoming video script:

Because municipal courts are locally funded, operated, and administrated, it is easy to understand why city officials and employees may mistakenly think of municipal courts as a city department. Although municipal courts often appear in various configurations in city organizational charts, it is critically important that cities understand that there are legal distinctions between hosting a state trial court and operating, for example, a police department, a fire department, or city commission.

Municipal courts are state courts and their judges are controlled by the same rules as all other state judges.

Judicial independence entails courts operating free from the improper influence of other parts of government (including employees and officials) and both private and partisan interests. Regardless if it is in a big city or a small town or whether court proceedings are held in city council chambers or in a separate building, judicial independence involves maintaining a figurative distance between city hall and the municipal court. In the context of municipal government, judicial independence means that municipal courts must not act, or be expected to operate, as a rubber stamp for the mayor, city manager, police department, or any other city agency.

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