Meridian ordered to provide magistrate court facilities

A panel of Fourth District Court judges says Meridian must provide magistrate court facilities, but Garden City is freed from that requirement.

The panel’s decision followed arguments in November on a 1994 ruling that both cities were required to provide the court facilities. Neither Meridian nor Garden City have magistrate courts.

The panel said Meridian must provide a magistrate court because “it was no longer reasonable for the City of Boise and Ada County to pay Meridian’s way,” the decision says.

While the order refers to "facilities" - buildings, personnel and equipment - past court decisions have established that cities can also choose to meet the requirement through contracts to pay a county for their respective share of magistrate court services. Boise and Ada County operate under such an agreement and discussions among Meridian, Garden City and the county have focused on a similar financial arrangement. But, the judges can only order Meridian to build a court facility, not mandate some sort of payment arrangement, according to the order.

A financial arrangement between Meridian and the county would cost "exponentially less" than if the city built its own court facility, and would avoid duplication and inefficiencies - something Meridian's lawyers argued as a reason to be excused from the 1994 order, the decision said.

Garden City is no longer required to provide the court facility because its use of facilities has declined since 1994.

The panel has scheduled enforcement of the 1994 order for after the 2017 legislative session to give Meridian and Ada County an opportunity to find a legislative solution.