PORTSMOUTH — The town’s municipal court is now in session.
The court, which primarily hears alleged violations of the town’s zoning ordinance, meets at 9 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at Town Hall. The first court convened on April 16 and the next one is scheduled for May 21.
Town Clerk Joanne Mower said the first court session had only one case on the docket, involving a noise complaint. The defendant pleaded not guilty at the arraignment — which lasted only a few minutes — and is scheduled to return for a pre-trial on May 21, she said.
The court expects to be busier in the coming months, however. Ms. Mower said the town’s zoning enforcement officer has been busy sending out “naughty letters” to alleged violators.
The General Assembly approved legislation in the spring of 2013 to allow the establishment of the court, which is modeled after similar ones in neighboring towns. Town officials say the court allows for more efficient enforcement of local zoning and traffic violations.
Without such a court in place, town officials have said, complaining about a town ordinance violation can be an exercise in frustration for homeowners. The court is also expected to accelerate the legal process for disposition of violations and should help cut the town costs, such as those resulting when town officials, including police officers, travel to courts outside the town.
The court may impose a sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, or both. It may also punish defendants for contempt, such as when they don’t appear to answer a charge. The town is also authorized to assess court costs of $50 for each offense.
Richard P. D’Addario is the municipal court judge for Portsmouth. Mr. D’Addario, who has a law office in Newport, has been the probate judge for the Town of Tiverton since 1993, as well as the probate judge for Little Compton since last July.