Guest Opinions

Ada County Magistrate Courts: Fact vs. fiction

In response to the Sunday, April 10, Guest Opinion from Mayors Tammy de Weerd and John Evans, we want you to know the facts regarding Magistrate Courts in Ada County.

Fiction: “In 1996, when the cities and counties asked citizens to support a consolidated courtroom, and they did, the order (1994 court order) should have immediately become null and void.”

Fact: The only governing bodies to make that court order null and void are the 4th Judicial District and the Supreme Court of Idaho.

Fiction: “While commissioners are blaming their irrational request on an old court order, what they really want is money.”

Fact: In 2009, the Idaho Supreme Court said Magistrate Courts are a shared responsibility between cities and counties. This has been a state law since 1890.

Fiction: “The county commissioners are now saying that Meridian and Garden City need to pay them to use the courthouse — something that is already paid and funded for by your county taxes.”

Fact: We aren’t asking taxpayers to cover costs of the building (it’s paid off). We’re expecting the cities to obey court orders and follow state law: 2009 — District Court Panel decision; 2012 — District Court Panel decision; and 2014 — Cities appeal to Idaho Supreme Court. Case dismissed.

Fiction: “Currently Kuna, Star and Eagle are not being asked to supply the same facility or pay the additional taxes.”

Fact: The 4th Judicial District judges make the decision who pays, not us. “Eventually they will have to pay,” says Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre. “We agree with public opinion that these cities should pay.”

Fiction: “Meridian offered court space to the county when the city was building a new City Hall, and the county declined.”

Fact: Former Commissioner Fred Tillman informed Meridian they would have to provide security provisions if they build a courtroom. The county declined the offer. It’s less expensive to have a centralized court system.

Fiction: “The city of Boise has a completely different agreement with the county for a different fee.”

Fact: Boise obeys the law and pays Ada County to operate Magistrate Courts. Boise’s fees are based on caseloads. We offered Meridian and Garden City the same plan. They declined. Magistrate Courts caseload percentage: Boise — 50 percent; Meridian and Garden City combined — 25 percent; Star, Kuna, Eagle, Idaho State Police and Ada County combined — 25 percent.

Fiction: “The city of Meridian has a courthouse caseload of 17 percent and roughly 60 percent of those cases are non-Meridian residents.”

Fact: We can’t control where people receive tickets and get arrested. Meridian collects payment from Ada County based on fees, forfeitures and fines collected from those 60 percent non-Meridian residents. You can’t complain about nonresidents, yet at the same time collect money off their citations and arrests.

Fiction: “Hope that Ada County commissioners will join the cities of Meridian and Garden City in an effort to resolve this issue.”

Fact: Dates we met with the two cities to resolve this — April 1, 2015; April 13, 2015; May 4, 2015; May 18, 2015; June 2, 2015; June 9, 2015; and July 30, 2015.

Additional facts

Meridian and Garden City’s two choices: (1) Pay Ada County to provide Magistrate Court services in a centralized courthouse or (2) build an adequate courthouse.

2015 Ada County Magistrate Court distribution payments (collected from fees, forfeitures and fines) to each city: Star, $27,845; Kuna, $40,020; Eagle, $56,228; Garden City, $168,253; Boise, $259,617; and Meridian, $453,000.

Fact: No one is being taxed twice. We’re asking Meridian and Garden City to obey court orders and follow state law.

Authored by Ada County commissioners: Chairman Jim Tibbs, District 1; Rick Yzaguirre, District 2; and David L. Case, District 3.