Courts FAQ 1

How does a municipality make a municipal court operational?

State law creates and establishes a municipal court in every city, village and town. Wis. Stat. sec. 755.01(1). A municipal court shall become operative and function after January 1, 2011, when the city council, town board, or village board adopts an ordinance or bylaw providing for the election of a judge and the operation and maintenance of the court, receives a certification from the chief judge of the judicial administrative district that the court meets the requirements under Wis. Stat. secs. 755.09, 755.10, 755.11 and 755.17, and provides written notification to the director of state courts of the adoption of the ordinance or bylaw. Wis Stat. sec. 755.01(1).

The municipal governing body fixes the salary of the judge. Wis. Stat. sec. 755.04. The salary may be increased by the governing body before the start of the 2nd or a subsequent year of service of the term of the judge, but shall not be decreased during a term. Wis. Stat. sec. 755.04.

The municipal governing body shall authorize at least one clerk for each court. Wis. Stat. sec. 755.10(1). Except in the city of Milwaukee, the municipal judge shall in writing appoint the personnel that are authorized by the municipal governing body. Wis. Stat. sec. 755.10(1). The municipal governing body fixes the salary of any municipal court staff. Wis. Stat. sec. 755.10(1).

Two or more municipalities may create a joint municipal court by entering into an agreement under sec. 66.0301, and enacting identical ordinances establishing a joint municipal court. Wis. Stat. sec 755.01(4). Upon entering into or discontinuing such an agreement, the contracting municipalities shall each transmit a certified copy of the ordinance or bylaw effecting or discontinuing the agreement to the appropriate filing officer under Wis. Stat. sec. 11.02(3e) and to the director of state courts.

A municipal governing body may by ordinance abolish a municipal court at the end of any term for which the judge has been elected. Wis. Stat sec. 755.01(2). The governing body may not abolish a joint municipal court while an agreement under Wis. Stat. sec. 755.01(4) is in effect. Wis. Stat. sec. 755.01(2).

Municipalities interested in establishing a municipal court should contact the Office of Judicial Education within the Director of State Courts Office. The number is (608) 266-7807. There is also an information pamphlet on starting a municipal court. It may be viewed online.