WILLIAMS—Williams was left without a contract for the Justice of the Peace to hear municipal cases as as Magistrate as of the last meeting of the City Council. The Williams Justice Court—a county jurisdiction—makes intergovernmental agreements (IGA) with cities and towns that require his service to hear municipal cases. Justice of the Peace Robert Krombeen, however, said that he will still hear municipal cases until the contract issues are resolved.
JP Robert Krombeen explained that smaller cities and towns, including Williams, contract with the County Justice Court to hear their cases rather than build separate court facilities and hire their own Magistrate. The Justice Court, for example, entered into an IGA with the recently incorporated Town of Tusayan to hear their municipal cases.
The City of Williams had a contract when JP Krombeen was elected two-years ago. According to City of Williams Code, they can only make a contract for the services of Magistrate for two-years at a time. The effort, now, is simply to create another contract for another two years.
While the Justice of the Peace is an elected official, he is classified as an employee of Coconino County.
“I’m an employee, even though I’m an elected official. I’m an employee of Coconino County as well as part of that office and that position. So I don’t have all employee benefits and privileges, but I do classify as an employee. For example, as an elected official I don’t get vacation time, I don’t get sick time, and that type of thing. But I can take time off by having the court covered and my duties covered in my absence.”
There are certain cases in which the Justice Court has jurisdiction in both the Justice Court and Municipal Court jurisdictions.
“Any criminal charge filed in the Justice Courts jurisdiction is going to be, at least initially, seen by the JP. So, even a felony would be seen by the JP, for example, for the initial appearance and the setting of bond. Then the case could go to a preliminary hearing here in the Justice Court and then would be transferred to the Superior Court,” JP Krombeen explained.
“Now, on the city side, as magistrate, I would see any misdemeanor cases, both from the initial appearance through conclusion. If there is a felony case filed, then that would automatically be a Justice Court appearance.”
It is the prerogative of the City of Williams to select their own Magistrate and create their own court system. It is cost effective, however, to have the court system in the same building.
JP Krombeen said, “Historically, as far back as I’m aware of, both courts have been in the same building. The City could have their own courthouse, or have it in the Council Chambers. We used to be in the strip mall downtown. Both courts were together in both of those locations previously. In some cities the city has their own courthouse.
“Again, you’re talking about a justice court which averages close to 5000 cases a year and a city court that averages, recently, between—Oh, give or take 500 case per year. So, it’s far more cost effective for the city to have an Intergovernmental Agreement to be in a cooperative agreement with the county such as we are now. It saves the taxpayer tremendously from the cities point of view of not having to have their own facility and that type of thing.”
The City also entered into an IGA last September to have the Justice Court staff take on the duties of the Municipal court staff. “It’s been a very challenging, but very smooth transition,” the JP said.
“That’s really helped our customer service, because in the past, we’d have one—at best two—[city] employees. But when those employees weren’t available, people would come up to the front window to, for example, make a payment and they’d see someone sitting there, and the person would say, ‘I’m sorry, we’re the Justice Court, we can’t help you. There’s nobody here from the City Court.’ There were issues because of that.”
The Justice Court staff is responsible for taking care of the cases and keeping the cases in their appropriate jurisdiction for the judge.
“We’ll have a courtroom filled with people, sometimes, with some being City cases and some being Justice Court cases. So as the Judge, I just call the case and I say that this case is in the Williams Justice Court, and we go through the proceeding.
“Next person may be a Municipal Court case. Since I’m Magistrate I handle that case. I call that this case is in the Williams Municipal Court. The Court Staff administratively keep those cases separate. They’re not all consolidated into one court. They’re separate, but we—other than that—handle everything the same whether someone comes in for the City court or the Justice Court.”