How We Got Municipal Court Rules, 0621 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 6 Pg. 10

PositionVol. 50, 6 [Page 10]

50 Colo.Law. 10

How We Got Municipal Court Rules

Vol. 50, No. 6 [Page 10]

Colorado Lawyer

June, 2021



Have you ever wondered how we got municipal court rules? Well, probably not. But keep in mind that municipal courts are not constitutional courts; rather, they are statutory courts under CRS § 13-10-104. Each municipality is authorized to have a municipal court, and one might think that the municipalities would provide municipal court rules by ordinance. Maybe some did, but I am guessing many did not. The story of how the Colorado Supreme Court came to adopt rules for statutory courts is an interesting one and, oddly enough, part of the Town of Vail's history. As a matter of case law, the story appears in abbreviated form at Municipal Court v. Broun, 488 P.2d 61 (Colo. 1971).

The appellee in Brown was Stewart "Stew" H. Brown, a pretty interesting fellow. Stew was the first lawyer to have an office in Vail. Appropriately enough, it was located on Wall Street. That is the street that now runs from the Children's Fountain up to Gondola One. Stew arrived in Vail in the mid-60s. Before going to law school, he was an airline pilot. He quit that business, he said, because he didn't want to learn how to fly jet planes as opposed to prop planes. Law school was easier? Anyway, that was his story. Stew was also a deputy district attorney in the Fifth judicial District, which then included Lake, Eagle, and Summit Counties, including the municipalities of Leadville, Frisco, Dillon, Vail, Red Cliff, Minturn, Eagle, and Gypsum. At the time, the Breckenridge and Vail ski areas were in existence, but Leadville was the economic center with about 2,500 employees at the Climax mine. While 2,500 miners could cause some trouble, overall the crime rate was pretty low. So Stew was dividing his time between prosecuting cases in county and district court throughout the judicial district and a private practice in Vail.

Stew nevertheless found himself to be a defendant in Vail Municipal Court in 1967, charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, or something like that. The rumor was that he had consumed a touch too much to drink in one of Vail's bars and caused a disturbance. At his first appearance, Stew moved to dismiss based on the absence of court rules, contending that the lack of such rules deprived him of fundamental due process. Of course, in Vail or...

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