Municipal Judge Kim Verhoeff Explains Useful Public Service Options

City Administrator John Sutherland and Judge Kim Verhoeff

City Administrator John Sutherland and Judge Kim Verhoeff

Lamar Municipal Court Judge, Kim Verhoeff, attended a city council work session Monday, October 5, to shed some light on her interpretation of how and when to apply Useful Public Service to area defendants. Judge Verhoeff had been informed there was some concern over the lack of use of the service during her term as judge which began last November. She replaced Judge Larry Stutler, who apparently, had made more use of the service than she has.

Mayor Roger Stagner set the meeting, commenting this was a follow up to a meeting early last year on how much UPS is scheduled. He said, “We’ve only had five cases which is cutting into their budget,” referring to an earlier statement from District Court Judge Stanley Brinkley, that there would be use of the program. Mayor Stagner also wanted to know if it was applied to MIP, Minors in Possession.

Judge Verhoeff explained that MIP first offenders aren’t referred to UPS, and although second offenders can receive that as a sentence, she’s had only one since she’s become the Municipal Judge. She explained, “There are some rules that restrict me from being ordered or agreeing to do something like this and we have the Code of Judicial Conduct to follow.” Verhoeff clarified her position by reciting Rule 1.3 of the Judicial Code of Conduct, “A judge shall not abuse the prestige of official office to advance the personal or economic interest of the judge or others, or allow others to do so. She added, “If we couch this in a position where we say that we’re going to benefit his employee, that’s a violation of that code.”

She continued on that note, “If there’s a case of being told, ‘you have to use UPS’, I say that’s a violation of the code.” She added that a judge shouldn’t permit family, social, political, financial or other external interests or relationships to influence a judge’s judicial conduct or judgement or even convey to a defendant that she is being influenced in some way on a person’s case. “When you sit in front of me, you want the Constitution followed, not someone else who may sway me to go a certain way on a ruling. You want facts and law and if you think there are outside influences, you can appeal to win.” She added she has to disclose any semblance of a relationship for every single case.

Judge Verhoeff added that her Friday case load deals with minor, not major cases, mostly involving code enforcement and traffic offenses for the most part. She explained that a more serious offense is usually written for the county court to handle, and she stated that’s where Judge Stutler made more use of UPS during his term with the county than she had as Municipal Judge. She added, “If we keep getting repeat offenders the officers start watching and they write them over to the country because they believe they need more serious consequences than we hand out here.”

Judge Verhoeff stated that under a deferred judgement, she can sentence a defendant to some form of charitable or community work projects or to make a donation. “We have some small donations on our tickets for what I would call the equivalent of four hours of public service,” she said she rotates some recipients of those funds among Victims Assistance Law Enforcement (VALE) Fund, the Lamar Library to assist with their youth reading program or to the annual fireworks fund. Verhoeff explained she believed all three were worthy recipients, assisting crime victims with vandalism repairs or helping the firemen who seek funds through most of the year to put on the annual July 4th display.

The local drug situation was discussed during her interview period for the Municipal Judge vacancy, as officials wanted to know her intentions for enforcement and potential treatment. She told the work session gathering that there is no budget for sentencing, but she has been using grant funding from the Crossroads program which deals with alcohol or drug offenses. She added that due to the age of some of the defendants, from 10 to 17, she favors treatment rather than punishment and the classes will range up to 25 years of age. Partners for Progress is also involved in drug rehabilitation projects.


There were about 30 people sitting in Judge Vehoeff’s chambers on Friday afternoon, October 9th, all on hand for Municipal Court proceedings which begin at 1:30pm each Friday. It’s a friendly setting, but with enough formality to let offenders know they are in a court of law. After letting each person know their rights to remain silent, select a deferred sentence or request a trial, she explains the consequences of those choices and lets the defendants know what will follow.

“Is anyone missing work?” she asks and takes those persons first, in this case a young woman who opts for a trial and after about five minutes of selecting a date, exits the courtroom. Judge Verhoeff next calls on a woman who has several young children with her, allowing her to take care of her business and be about her day. But her case involves a vicious dog incident and Judge Verhoeff states that the woman should discuss the matter with the Animal Control Officer when they become available and report back to court at a later date. One man takes a deferred sentence which allows him to pay his fees on the sentence and is told to maintain a good record for the next 90 days so he doesn’t have to come back sooner. Next is an MIP for marijuana which gets a court date and that’s followed by a Failure to Yield offense. While they are being dealt with in council chambers, another dog case discussion is held in the hallway with the defendant and two police officers. It’s an efficient situation with the judge and two clerks scheduling cases and keeping track of them and in less than an hour they’re done for the week.

By Russ Baldwin

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