By Correne Martin
Four and a half months have passed since the inaugural session of the Prairie du Chien Municipal Court. Since its inception, the court has focused solely on traffic and other municipal ordinance violations within the city, lightening the load for and leaving the more serious cases to the Crawford County Circuit Court. As one of 250 municipal courts in Wisconsin, it has also brought the city more revenue, which helps to better equip and train the local police force.
For those who have appeared in municipal court, they have experienced a less formal setting than a circuit court, though the court preserves basic judicial formalities so all parties recognize they are appearing in a court of law.
“It’s a conversation more than something formal,” Municipal Court Clerk Cassie Rickleff said.
The majority of the people appearing in municipal court are unrepresented and may be appearing in court for the first time, so the Honorable Judge Daniel Key strives to answer reasonable questions regarding the cases and court procedures.
“I try to be impartial and allow both sides an opportunity to tell their side of the story. The goal is for people to leave court feeling they have had their opportunity to be heard, even if they don’t agree with the decision,” stated Key, who was appointed to his position and will run for re-election to a four-year term in April. “I also let the people know this is not the end of the world. They’re not going to jail. Municipal Court is a process about fines and forfeitures and correcting unlawful situations.”