WASHINGTON CITY — Washington City will start looking for a new justice court judge next week as their current judge trades the robes and gavel for a suit and place next to the City Council as the new city attorney.
Thad Seegmiller, who was appointed to act as Washington City’s justice court judge in February 2017, was among a handful of attorneys who applied to fill the position left by previous City Attorney Jeff Starkey.
Starkey, who has served in the position for many years, resigned in late December and moved to northern Utah due to personal and family reasons, Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson said Wednesday night.
Last month, the City Council announced that Seegmiller was the new city attorney. He will start officially next week but was not present at Wednesday night’s council meeting.
For Seegmiller, his new role will actually be a return to the City Council chambers, albeit in a position different from the one he held the first time around. Before he became the city justice court judge, Seegmiller served on the City Council for seven years.
“(That) will give him a whole perspective that’s different, I think, than just coming from an attorney’s office, doing this and that and the other things,” Neilson said Wednesday. “He understands the city, and he understands the law and he understands the judiciary part of the law. His experience as an attorney now will be a great benefit. … Having Thad Seegmiller as our attorney will be an absolute gem for Washington City.”
Neilson said Seegmiller was “highly regarded” as the city justice court judge and “very compassionate” in his judgments.
“We were very fortunate to have him serve as long as he did,” the mayor said.
Seegmiller replaced justice court judge Lee Bunnell, who served in that capacity for 35 years before reaching the state-mandated retiring age of 75.
In the wake of Seegmiller’s becoming the new city attorney, the Utah State Courts asked the City Council to pass a resolution allowing the temporary appointment of a judge – or judges – to preside over the city’s justice court until a replacement is found.
Any sitting justice court judge in Washington County or in the surrounding counties will be able to fill the position until it is permanently filled, Washington City Manager Jeremy Redd said during the council’s Wednesday workshop meeting.
“This allows us to use anybody,” he said.
One judge who has been helping Washington City fill the justice court vacancy has been attorney Jake Graff, Hildale City’s own justice court judge who is also a Washington City resident.
Washington City’s Justice Court primarily deals with misdemeanor-level offenses and ordinance violations. Bunnell told St. George News in 2016 that as a justice court judge, one deals with a lot of domestic violence issues, DUI offenses and thefts from places like Wal-Mart and Kohl’s.
The justice court judge position isn’t the only one left vacant recently. During a report given at the end of the council meeting, Councilman Kurt Ivie noted the March 3 resignation of the Matt Loo, the city’s economic development director.
Ivie said Loo left the city to join a local, private developer.
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