Judge sets city council straight

SHEA ERWIN

 

Questions raised at the Dillon City Council’s last meeting about some of her professional practices inspired a letter from City Judge Shea Erwin that was placed on the agenda for tonight’s City Council meeting.

In the April 23 letter to the City Council and Mayor Mike Klakken included in tonight’s meeting packets, Erwin responded to recent comments made by some councilpersons about her City Council meeting attendance record and use of City Council Chambers.

“We do need for her [Judge Erwin] to start attending meetings, at least once a month,” asserted Councilperson Lynn Westad, at the April 16 City Council meeting.

“The ordinances require that,” agreed Councilperson Swede Troedsson.

Klakken advised the Council that night he had discussed the attendance issue with Erwin, who was appointed to a two-year term as city judge in January but has not attended many regular City Council meetings since.

Klakken said Erwin had told him she had avoided the Council meetings over her concerns about keeping matters of the City Court and City Council separate.

Erwin addressed the issue in writing in the April 23 letter.

“As to my attendance City Council meetings, the consensus of other judges around the State is that unless there is an issue that requires particular input from the judge or an issue directly related to the judiciary is at hand, the common wisdom and best practice is to not attend regular meetings due to the fact that individuals participating in council business or issues considered at those meetings may potentially be brought before the Court,” wrote Erwin in the letter. 

“Potential conflicts of interest and/or charges of undue influence due to particularized knowledge present a special concern for judges in small communities. Limiting the instances when judges may need to recuse themselves is an important consideration,” continued Erwin. 

“It is also noted that at other levels of government the judiciary remains separate from legislative proceedings as well as those matters involving interaction between the executive and legislative branches. This should not be interpreted as indifference or disrespect to the Council or its proceedings, but simply the City Judge doing what is best for the interests of the citizens of Dillon.”

 

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