City Judge Hilton Conger Reappointed To New Two Year Term

August 21, 2006
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Board of Aldermen Monday night appointed Incumbent City Judge Hilton Conger to a new two year term, effective September 1st.

Conger's current eight year term as an elected City Judge expires August 31st.

Conger's salary as City Judge will also be reduced from $1,600 per month to $1,000 per month, because of the lesser responsibilities of the office.

The Municipal Court, up until 2002, had the same jurisdiction in city criminal cases as the General Sessions Court, and the City Judge held court several times each month with the City Attorney serving as Prosecutor.

After changes were made in the City Charter, the City Court's jurisdiction was reduced to mostly minor traffic offenses and city ordinance violations. The court now convenes only once per month, usually for about one to two hours at a time.

The City Judge is also no longer elected by city voters to an eight year term, but serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, appointed to a two year term.

Since Conger was last elected as City Judge in 1998, city officials either could not or chose not to reduce his salary during the term, even though the powers of the city court changed midway through the term.

The changes in the City Charter, regarding the City Court, came following a State Attorney General's opinion in the fall of 2001 that only the District Attorney General and his staff had the responsibility of prosecuting state criminal action in municipal courts.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Sarah Cripps, uneasy that the city fathers have voted to pay the City Judge $1,000 for two hours work per month, is now asking them to consider giving her a pay raise.

Cripps is complaining that her monthly retainer fee of $1,250 has not been increased since she was hired by the city in 1998.

Cripps' request will be placed on the agenda for consideration at the next meeting on September 18th.

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