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Time to pass the gavel for Judge Cicero

Judge June Cicero has been elected River Falls Municipal Court judge since 1984. She said she's decided not to file for re-election in April. There are no jury trials at the municipal court level. About a quarter of those cited bring a lawyer. The verdict and sentence on citations is rendered by Cicero, the judge. Municipal Court cases can be appealed. File photo

June Cicero was just finishing law school when she first ran for River Falls Municipal Judge. She was running for an open seat as the previous municipal judge had moved.

On the advice of someone who'd done political campaigning, she invited about 12-14 of her classmates to come and go door-to-door with her one afternoon.

That was some 33 years ago. She's been consistently re-elected every four years since then.

But now, Cicero said, she's decided not to file for re-election.

"I just felt it was time," she said. "I love this job, and I would keep it forever if I had my druthers, but there comes a point where you need to walk away from it and hand it to somebody else."

Cicero said a lot has changed since she started as municipal judge.

When she first started, she worked out of what is now the police department building. At the time, that building was City Hall.

Cicero held court in a small room in the basement.

"It had a desk and three chairs in there, and that was all you could put in the room," she said. She described how people lined up in the corridor and came in one-by-one for their court appearances. She had to explain the proceedings to each person individually at the time.

Later, the City Administrator decided the city council chambers could be used as a courtroom.

"It was busy," she said.

She was also on staff at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. She said she'd rush back home Wednesday afternoons for court

"I would clear my schedule, and jump in my car and drive home as fast as I could to get here to have court then," she said.

Over the years, she said, it's been changed to trials being held at night, but court during the afternoon.

This was to make it easier for working people to make their court dates.

Cicero was also involved in working on truancy cases with school administrators. The municipal court has built a strong connection with St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice while Cicero has been on the bench.

"I often give people a choice of a license suspension, or they can go to the (Restorative Justice) class," she said. "I think we need to work to change behavior and that should be what we're doing, and so partnering with restorative justice, I think, has allowed that to happen."

Cicero said some of her favorite memories as a judge have been the many, many weddings she's performed. Over the past three years or so, she's referred people to other municipal judges for their nuptials, but in the past she did many weddings.

"I would drive all over the place," she said. "I drove miles. I went up to Deer Park. I went up to Hayward ... I spent a lot of time on the road going into people's homes, to Rodli Commons, to Clifton Highlands Golf Course ..."

A civil ceremony isn't very long, but Cicero said it's been worth it.

However, she said, back problems have made driving to ceremonies difficult over the past few years, so she's referred people to other judges.

Over the years, the types of cases she sees have changed a lot. For example, when she first started, there would be an occasional underage drinking citation.

"Now, I have many more THC or drug paraphernalia citations," she said. "There are a fair number of underage consumption (cases) but the number of drug-related offenses has increased dramatically."

Cicero said she will miss her position once her term is complete.

"I've loved this job because it gives me a connection to the community," Cicero said.

She doesn't have any specific plans for after her term is up.

"As a judge you have to sort of be a little aloof, just because you're dealing with these things, and you could very easily have a conflict of interest," she said. "This will give me the freedom to interact with some organizations where I have some interest."

Cicero said she hopes that the next municipal court judge elected is an attorney or otherwise trained in law.

"Things are getting more complicated," she said for municipal court judges. Especially as higher courts bump things down to municipal courts. But she will still miss her job.

"The community has been very gracious, very respectful and treated me extremely well," she said. "And I appreciate that."

How to file

Cicero's seat will be open in the spring election.

Three registration forms, including one to collect 200 signatures, are due at City Hall, 222 Lewis St., no later than 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. A fourth form is due to the state elections committee by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5. See www.rfcity.org/elections for more information. Candidates must be residents of the city of River Falls.

Interested candidates may also contact River Falls City Clerk Amy White at 715-426-3408 or awhite@rfcity.org for more information.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048
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