On August 1, 2016 the Town Council adopted the 2015-16 Charter Review Commission recommendation that a notation should be made within Article XVIII noting the Ballot Question 11 [approved November 2, 2010] as presented to and approved by the voters provided that: "Shall the Charter be amended to provide for a Municipal Court, with its jurisdiction and operation governed by Ordinance; provided however that if court revenue does not sustain operation of the Court; the Council shall possess the power to abolish the Court."
Pursuant to RIGL 1956, § 45-2-24, there is established a Municipal Court in the town (Code 1972, § 12 1/2-1).
The provisions of the Charter shall apply to the Municipal Court to the extent that such provisions are not inconsistent with § 45-2-24 RIGL. To the extent that such provisions are inconsistent with RIGL § 45-2-24, the provisions of § 45-2-24 shall control (Code 1974, § 12 1/2-1).
The Municipal Court shall be composed of one (1) or more judge(s) appointed by the Town Council. The judge shall serve until the judge's successor is duly appointed.
The term of appointment for the judge shall be four (4) years, commencing January 1st of the year of appointment.
The judge shall be a lawyer admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, in good standing. The judge shall have not less than five (5) years' experience in the active practice of law.
The Municipal Court Judge shall appoint a Clerk of the Court, who shall be a qualified elector of the Town and other court personnel.
The clerk and other personnel of the Municipal Court shall serve at the pleasure of the judge.
The Clerk of the Court shall keep a regular docket of all cases disposed of; shall record the judgments, orders and sentences of the court; and shall furnish certified copies thereof when required, for which copies the clerk shall charge the same fees as are by law allowed to clerks of the Superior Court. The clerk's office shall be open to the public during such hours as the court shall determine.
The compensation of the Municipal Court Judge shall not be less than ten thousand ($10,000) dollars per year and shall be subject to all state and federal withholdings as required by law.
The compensation of the Clerk of the Municipal Court shall not be less than six thousand ($6,000) dollars per year and shall be subject to all state and federal withholdings as required by law.
The compensation of the judge and clerk may be increased by resolution of the Town Council.
The judge's compensation shall continue for up to three months during any absence due to illness, sickness, or disability.
The Town Council shall determine the compensation of all other court personnel.
In case of sickness, absence or other disability or ineligibility of the Municipal Court Judge, the Town Council may, by resolution, appoint an acting Municipal Court Judge for the term of such sickness, absence, disability, or ineligibility of the Municipal Court Judge, at such salary as the Town Council may determine. An acting Municipal Court Judge shall perform all duties of the Municipal Court Judge, and in the performance of such duties shall have the same effect as if the duties were performed by the Municipal Court Judge. The acting Municipal Court Judge's service shall automatically terminate upon the return of the sitting Municipal Court Judge.
The Municipal Court shall have a seal which shall contain such words and device as the Town Council shall adopt and approve.
The Municipal Court shall be considered to be in session at all times, at such place in the Town as the court or the justice holding the sessions shall appoint. There shall be a police officer present at all sessions of the court for protection, bailiff duties, and keeping the peace under the authority of the Court during said session to be compensated by the court as a detail.
Costs taxed by the Municipal Court shall be determined and set by State and Municipal Court Compact, Chapter 18 (8-18-1 et. seq.) of the RIGL or by the State of Rhode Island from time to time. If none be set, then the costs shall be the same as those for District Court.
All payments shall be deposited in the general treasury of the town.
The Municipal Court shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine causes involving violations of the following:
Any defendant found guilty of any offense within the jurisdiction of the court, excluding violations of the minimum housing ordinances or G.L. 1956, § 45-24.3-1 et seq. may, within seven (7) days of such conviction, file an appeal from the conviction to the county superior court and be entitled in the latter court to a trial de novo. Any defendant found guilty of any violation of a minimum housing to a trial de novo in accordance with G.L. 1956, §§ 8-8-3(a)(4) and 8-8-3.2.
With respect to violations of either municipal ordinances dealing with minimum housing or G.L. 1956, § 45-24.3-1 et seq. dealing with housing maintenance and occupancy, the Town Council hereby confers upon the Municipal Court, in furtherance of the jurisdiction conferred by this section, the power to proceed according to equity to:
Motor vehicle and other violations as established by the State and Municipal Court Compact or the State of Rhode Island.
The Municipal Court Judge or Clerk shall have the power to administer oaths and affirmations.
It shall be lawful for the Municipal Court Judge to prescribe and vary the form of all complaints, warrants, writs, or other process so as to make such process consistent with the organization, style and jurisdiction of the Municipal Court. Such complaints, warrants, writs and other process shall have the same effect, validity and extent and shall be served, obeyed, enforced, and returned in the same manner and by the same officers as if issued from the district courts. They may be served by any constables of the town who are authorized to serve process in civil or criminal cases. Further, motor vehicle violations shall utilize summons, warrants, writs, and complaints as proscribed by the State and Municipal Court Compact.
The Municipal Court shall have the power to issue writs or summonses for witnesses and compel their attendance and to punish for contempt by fine or imprisonment. The court may issue writs of habeas corpus ad testificandum upon continuance of any complaint or proceeding before it, and it may take recognizance to the state with surety in such sum as the court shall think proper, with condition to appear before the court and make further answer to such complaint or proceeding. To keep the peace, and in want thereof, it may commit the party to the state Adult Corrections Institution until such recognizance is given or the parties lawfully discharged therefrom.
The Court shall have authority to issue warrants for arrest and such further powers and authority as established by the State of Rhode Island from time-to-time.
The Municipal Court may impose a sentence not to exceed thirty (30) days in jail and impose a fine not in excess of three hundred dollars ($300.00) or both. It shall be empowered to punish persons for contempt. The Court shall have authority to issue warrants for arrest.
The Town Council shall have authority to enact ordinances raising fines and jail sentences not inconsistent with 45-2-24 of the RI General Laws.
All judges of Municipal Court which exercise jurisdiction under the provisions of Chapter 18 of the R.I. General Laws shall be subject to and governed by the canons of judicial ethics or code of judicial conduct in effect at the time, as prescribed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and the provisions of Chapter 16 of the RI General Laws.
The Town Council shall suspend, pending the prosecution of an appeal, any Municipal Court Judge when it is shown by the certified record of a court of competent jurisdiction that the judge either pleaded guilty or no contest, or was found guilty of a crime punishable as a felony under the laws of this state, any other state, or the United States, or of any other crime that involves moral turpitude. The suspension shall be without compensation.
Whenever, upon appeal, the conviction is reversed, the suspension shall terminate and the judge involved shall be paid the compensation that would have been paid the judge during the period of suspension.
Where, after an appeal, a conviction has become final, the judge involved shall be removed from office by the Town Council.
Where no appeal is taken by a judge convicted of a felony under the laws of the state, any other state or the United States or is convicted of any other crime that involves moral turpitude, the Town Council shall terminate said judge upon receipt of a certified record of conviction from the court in which said crime was prosecuted.
The Municipal Court Judge is disqualified and prohibited from performing his/her judicial duties while there is pending against him/her an indictment charging him/her with the commission of a crime punishable as a felony under the laws of this state, any other state, or the United States. The suspension shall be without loss of compensation.