City Government

Ada County Explains Scope of Magistrate Court Litigation

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.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. WTF?

  2. This looks pretty simple to solve.

    The entity receiving the money from the fines should pay for the court services renedered. In addition, the cities should pay for the transport, incarceration and other associated costs of keeping their citizens in the county lockup.

    The least expensive model would be to have the county prosecutor conduct business in the District Attorney Model v. hiring private law firms for prosecutions of infractions, misdemeanors and felonies.

    What goes on around here is not in the best interests of the taxpayers with costs not amortized and administered by a single public entity.

  3. Where are Eagle, Star and Kuna in all this? I had someone who knew the suit was in the works tell me those municipalities are just as accountable for costs as the cities cited in the stories, but they aren’t mentioned as part of the suit. Was that person actually wrong?

    EDITOR NOTE–As the GUARDIAN noted, those cities should also pay–“egual justice.” The reason they are not mentioned is that under the original agreement and court order the little guys either were not incorporated, had no police force to write tickets, or were simply so small it didn’t make a difference. We think the little guys will also get dinged soon to pay their share–regardless of how small it may be.

  4. So, I guess I may be confused on what they mean when they say “Ada County does not receive the fine money the cities collect.” When someone is issued a dog at large ticket and they pay this at the courthouse for a total of $76.50, $25 for the fine and $51.50 for the “court costs”, they are telling us the county doesn’t receive any of that revenue?

  5. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 5, 2011, 1:31 pm

    Spelling errors and bad grammar (first paragraph, beginning “On December…”) aside, if the three cites are not paying, then Ada County should stop providing the service, instead of sueing.

  6. GAH! You re-printed the county’s typo. The first line should read: “seeking relief from the undue” not “undo.”

  7. Rod: … Ada County should stop providing the service, instead of sueing.

    It’s always dangerous to criticize spelling and grammar, Rod. I believe you probably meant “suing,” rather than “sueing.”

  8. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 6, 2011, 9:25 pm

    I point out theirs, you point out mine.

  9. Guardian, please never put in spell check! It makes me check mine two or three times(I still make boo-boos) and it is really fun to watch the spelling police go at each other!

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