Breuner

City Court Judge Andrew Breuner.

Citizens will have a chance to voice their opinion of the Belgrade City Court becoming a court of record at next week’s City Council meeting.

The council originally planned to vote on a resolution to change the status of the court, but instead will now consider making the change via ordinance at the recommendation of City Attorney Rick Ramler. New ordinances cannot be passed without public hearings, so the council will take public comment on the proposal at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Unlike the Belgrade City Court, courts of record keep official records of proceedings that are useful should cases be appealed to higher courts. City Court Judge Andrew Breuner has said relatively few cases are appealed out of Belgrade’s court, but that is likely to change as the population of the city continues to grow.

City officials agree the change to a court of record is the right move – for now.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re moving in the right direction – the devil’s in the details.” City Manager Barkley told council members during their Dec. 7 meeting.

Should the council approve the status change, it may not be the last court question it will consider in the fairly near future. City staff spent a few minutes at the Dec. 7 council meeting discussing the probability that the city court will become a municipal court as Belgrade grows.

Breuner explained that municipal courts can do things city courts cannot, such as handle felony warrants. There are other differences, too. Municipal court judges must be attorneys, while non-attorney judges can preside over city courts.

Breuner told the Belgrade News he would support such a transition in the long term but feels it’s a bit “premature” right now.

“I think that’s where we’re going and where we’re ultimately going to be, but it’s a bigger step for procedural reasons,” Breuner said. “I do think it’s an appropriate way to go for Belgrade ultimately.”