Here is the latest round of dueling press releases between Boise and Ada County over the issue of magistrate court space. This one is from Ada County.
On December 21, 2010, Ada County filed suit against Boise, Meridian and Garden City seeking relief from the undo financial burden their actions have brought to all Ada County taxpayers. At the heart of the issue is the way these cities have been ordered by the Fourth Judicial District to provide their own magistrate court services; and more specifically, how their decision to ignore the order has subsequently shifted the cost of providing magistrate court services to all Ada County taxpayers.
“The cities would like you to believe we are suing our own constituents, which is not the case. We are suing city leaders who are failing to fulfill their legal, court-ordered obligations,“ said Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman. “City leaders have made a conscious decision to ignore a court order to provide magistrate court services – one that has been unanimously upheld by the Fourth District Court judges and all five of the Idaho Supreme Court justices. By doing so, city leaders have shifted their financial responsibilities onto county property taxpayers.”
Court orders dating back to the 1980’s and 1990’s require the cities to provide their own magistrate court services. Meridian and Garden City have never complied with the order. Boise provided its magistrate court at the Public Safety Building and then later contracted with Ada County to provide the services at the courthouse. Boise has since cancelled the contract, leaving the city non-compliant with the court order.
In 2007 Boise asked the court to repeal the order but the magistrate judges unanimously rejected the city’s arguments. Boise then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court which also unanimously upheld the lower court’s ruling. In each case Boise argued the court order resulted in double-taxation of its citizens. In both cases, the courts rejected the argument, stating it was unfounded and baseless.
Proceeds from fines and fees collected in magistrate cases are intended to cover the cost of providing court services, which currently sits at approx. $4.6 million annually. Boise’s current magistrate caseload comprises approx. 50-percent of all magistrate cases in Ada County with the cities of Meridian and Garden City together contributing approx. 20-percent to the overall caseload. “These cities are happy to collect revenues from their city courts and then turn around and expect all Ada County property taxpayers to pick up the tab for the services they have been ordered to provide” said Ada County Commission Chairman Rick Yzaguirre. “Ada County does not receive the fine money the cities collect.”
Realizing there are efficiencies associated with a consolidated court system, Ada County has offered on several occasions to provide these services at a significantly reduced rate compared to what it would likely cost the cities if they provided court services at their own facilities. The cities have rejected the County’s offers.
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