Media Center

Van Hollen Issues Formal Opinion Relating to Taxation of Costs Against Defendants in Municipal Court Actions

 

Municipal Courts May Not Charge Separate Fees For Each Issuance of Process in a Single Action But May Allow For Costs To Be Taxed Against a Defendant For Each Service or Execution of Process Accomplished by Municipal Personnel

 

MADISON - Responding to an inquiry from Director of State Courts A. John Voelker, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today issued a formal opinion concerning the statutory authority of municipal courts to allow municipalities to tax costs against defendants under section 814.65(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes in actions for violations of municipal ordinances. 

 

Many cities, villages, and towns have established municipal courts.  The municipalities that have established such courts prosecute actions for violations of municipal ordinances in those courts.  If a municipality obtains a judgment for violation of a municipal ordinance, the municipal court may permit the municipality to recover certain costs associated with prosecuting the action.  Such costs are 'taxed' against the defendant by including them in the final judgment that is issued by the municipal court.  A municipal court may only allow the taxation of those costs that have been specifically authorized by the Legislature.

 

Van Hollen stated that the Legislature has not authorized municipalities to charge a separate fee for each warrant or commitment order (order for incarceration of a defendant) that is issued in a single municipal court proceeding.  Only one fee of between $15 and $28 is authorized regardless of how many warrants or commitment orders are issued in one proceeding.  Van Hollen explained that the $15 - $28 fee is like a filing fee and that the governing body of the municipality may set that fee anywhere between those two amounts.  That fee may be included in the final judgment against the defendant in the municipal court action.

 

Van Hollen also stated that the Legislature has authorized costs to be taxed for each warrant and commitment order that is successfully served or executed by employees of the municipality that filed the action, even if more than one warrant or commitment order is successfully served or executed in a single municipal court action.  Van Hollen noted that a municipal court may not allow costs of more than $12 for each warrant or commitment order that is successfully served or executed, unless a higher amount was established by the governing body of the municipality prior to the time that service or execution of the warrant or commitment order occurred.  Van Hollen also noted that statutorily-authorized charges by the sheriff or by law enforcement personnel of municipalities other than the one that filed the action may be taxed as costs against a defendant in municipal court.

 

A copy of the opinion.

A copy of the original request from Director of State Courts A. John Voelker.