Judge Orders Muncipal Court to Impose NO Jail Time for Violating City Ordinances
If you violate a city ordinance, district judge Ed McLean is making sure you won’t see any jail time:
A District Court judge has ordered Missoula’s Municipal Court judges not to send defendants to the county jail for violations of city ordinances.
In his written order, District Judge Ed McLean said only those defendants accused of breaking state laws should be in the Missoula County Detention Facility, which has been at capacity for 18 months.
“A municipal judge may not send someone to the Missoula County Detention Facility for violation of a municipal ordinance,” McLean wrote. “If the judge sends someone to the Missoula County Detention Facility for violation of a state statute, then the judge must cite the statute under which the person is being detained.”
I don’t know what’s going on between the County jail and the City Municipal Court, but I would suspect there are multiple factors at play. One of those factors is the still relatively new head judge, Kathleen Jenks.
Last October, I wrote about how Jenks is not supportive at all of treatment court options for repeat offenders who have co-occurring mental health and addiction problems. Then, a few weeks later, I wrote this post about the problems at the jail.
Well, it’s no surprise things appear to be getting worse, and in this week’s Independent, yet another factor is discussed: Counsel Cuts. Here is an excerpt from the article explaining how forced furloughs can keep people languishing longer in jail:
One of the immediate effects of budget cuts is furloughs. Since mid-April, Rhodes and every other employee of the FDOM have been forbidden to work the second Friday of each two-week pay period. It may not seem like a lot, but Rhodes says given his already hectic work schedule—he represents as many as 35 clients charged with felonies at any given time—one less day in the office is significant.
“When you’re prohibited from working one out of 10 business days, it interferes undoubtedly with the flow of work,” he says. “I’ve already had an instance where I had to reschedule a motion to suppress because the hearing was set for a furlough day.”
He says in another instance, he was forced to ask a judge to push back a sentencing hearing that was scheduled for a Friday he was not allowed to work. That client, he says, will be forced to remain in the county jail until the scheduling issues can be resolved.
It’s a bad situation, and it’s getting worse. Of course, if you’re someone who racks up multiple violations of city ordinances, and you don’t care about mounting fines, then the news today is probably good.