Although not an official part of the state’s unified court system, Oregon’s Municipal Courts are the “judicial branch” for city government. Most cities in Oregon, but not all have a Municipal Court. The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are misdemeanors, violations of city laws, local ordinance issues like parking tickets, traffic violations within city limits, animal control problems, fire control, and other items. Additionally, Municipal Courts handle things like “high grass and trash nuisances; vehicle impoundments and forfeitures; and parking and pedestrian violations. They also hear certain minor tobacco, liquor, and drug violations.”
Municipal Courts can use jury trials, but most often a judge makes the verdict. State law governs Municipal Courts, and some are courts of record while others are not.
Municipal Court judges do not need to be lawyers, but most of them are. They are appointed by the city council or elected into office. The city charter or council determines each judge’s qualifications. Municipal Court judges may perform weddings anywhere in the state.
Oregon created The Oregon Municipal Judges Association (OMJA) to help arrange continuing education and training sessions for Municipal Court judges. It also has an online service to help Municipal Court judges to connect with Justices of the Peace and other legal resources. The OMJA collaborates with the Oregon Department of Transportation for additional annual conferences.
The Oregon Secretary of State has its own website with a lot of information about Municipal Courts. Included is an entire registry of all Municipal Court judges, courthouse locations, and other information. This registry is searchable by court name, city or county and the judge’s information is searchable by the court name, judge’s last name, county or city. The registry is detailed with each judge’s name, court, location, status, term, and comments.