Carbon County (Utah). County Court

Entity: 2620
Entity Type: County


The Carbon County Court was established with the creation of the county by the territorial legislture in 1894 from lands originally part of Emery County. County courts were authorized to manage all county business and county property. With statehood in 1896, the court was abolished and replaced by a commission in each county.

Biography/History Notes

The court controlled finances of the county, assessing taxes, authorizing bids, settling and allowing claims for goods and services, and it served as a board of equalization. The Court administered elections; oversaw the development of roads; created school and road districts; supervised county and district officers and paid their salaries; licensed liquor vendors and other businesses; and managed public property and buildings.? Public welfare responsibilities included public health programs; indigent burials, and care of the poor, insane, and orphans. Comissionioners could build and manage a county jail. Responsibilities for managing natural resources included programs for the benefit of livestock, crops, fish and game, and control of predators. The Court also controlled water and timber priveleges in the county; and by the 1880s provided for the incorporation of municipalities.

The Court was to audit and settle all claims against the county, and to audit and settle accounts of any collector of county revenue, taxes, or income payable into the county treasury. The members had the authority to assess a tax for county purposes and a road tax which were to be collected under the direction of the Court. The Court controlled all timber and water privileges, and could grant mill sites. The Court was to implement federal public land allotments. The Court was incorporated and could sue and be sued, make contracts and purchase real and personal property, direct the use and disposition of its property, and borrow money. The Court also was declared a Board of Equalization. Other administrative functions of the County Court include: to make and enforce local (not municipal) regulations; to adopt rules on the storage of powder and combustible material; to direct the sheriff to attend County Court meetings, to preserve order, and serve notices, subpoenas, citations, etc. as directed by the Court; to subpoena for witnesses, books, etc. upon any subject or matter within the jurisdiction of the county Court; to post notice of meetings; and to receive donations of property. The Court was authorized to issue bonds of indebtedness.

The law provided for the incorporation of municipalities upon petitioning the County Court and a subsequent election. The County Court created election precincts and set polling places. The members set the number of justices of the peace and constables and approved their bonds. They also approved the bonds and took the oaths for most elected county officials such as surveyor, treasurer, or sheriff. In the case of vacancy within an elected position, the Court could appoint an interim official. The Court also appointed numerous other officials who were more directly overseen by the Court.

The Court was to supervise the conduct of county and district officers and to establish a county fund to pay salaries. Many officials were required to provide regular fiscal reports to the Court, and the county recorder was obligated to get a County Selectman to sign a survey certificate before transferring land. The County Court also issued business licenses, which were required for private businesses operating in unincorporated areas of the county.

The County Court appointed road commissioners and oversaw the layout of roads. The Court was to district the county into road districts, precincts, school districts, and other subdivisions as needed. The Court was directed to divide the county into districts and erect fortifications. The Court organized irrigation districts with the Selectmen becoming ex-officio water commissioners. The Court also could locate sites for and erect public buildings.

The Court could regulate bounties on wolf and fox pates. They were put in charge of fisheries to prevent the needless destruction of fish. The Court was allowed to offer bounties on certain varmints and pests, and to control noxious weeds. The Court was authorized to adopt regulations to promote the planting and preservation of shade and ornamental trees on roads and public grounds.

The County Court could establish estray pounds, and the Court was required to issue each poundkeeper a recorded brand. The Court could create quarantine grounds. Members were given some say over the location of herd grounds. The Court could call for special elections on the issue of fencing versus open range.

The Selectmen, in conjunction with the Court, were to take care of the poor and insane and to bind out orphans and vicious, idle, or vagrant children or Indian prisoners. Counties were allowed to erect a jail of which the Selectmen were ex-officio directors. The Court was required to pay for indigents sent to the territorial insane asylum from the county. the County Court was authorized to appoint a quarantine physician and in conjunction with him, the Court then constituted a board of quarantine. The Court's responsibilities included the rights to regulate or prohibit common carriers from leaving the indigent, insane, or contagious individuals or bodies within the county if not residents; to provide for the working of prisoners in the county jail; and to provide for the burying of the indigent dead.

With statehood in 1896, the Probate Court and office of the Probate Judge were abolished. The County Selectmen became the County Commissioners until their successors could be elected. The County Probate Clerk also known as the County Court Clerk or County Clerk, continued as the County Clerk until the next election.

Court administration followed the pattern legislated in 1852 for the formation and government of counties. The Court consisted of three Selectmen presided over by the Probate Court Judge. The Probate Judge in conjunction with any two of the Selectmen constituted a quorum. The Selectmen could also hold session in the absence of the Probate Judge which they did throughout 1894. The Clerk of the Probate Court, also known as the County Clerk, was to attend all sessions of the Court and to keep the records of the Court. The County Clerk was authorized to appoint a deputy.

The Probate Judge was appointed by the United States President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The three Selectmen were elected for staggered two year terms. Vacancies were to be filled by the County Court if a majority remained, otherwise a special election was required. Between meetings of the Court, the Selectmen could transact business separately throughout the county relating to the poor, insane, orphans, minors or other important business requiring immediate attention. They were required to report that business at the next session and have it approved by the Court before it became a matter of record. Selectmen and the Probate Judge were all required to take oaths and file bonds. The position of County Clerk was an elected position with a two year term.

Most elected officials were required to file oaths and bonds with the county court, and many elected officials, such as the treasurer, were required to make regular reports to the Court. In addition, the County Court directly appointed and supervised many officials. In the two years of the Court's existence, these included road commissioners for road districts created in the county, election judges, a poll tax supervisor, a board of examiners for school teachers, grand and petit jurors, poundkeepers, a fish and game commissioner, a bee inspector, a quarantine physician, stock detectives, sheep inspector, fruit tree inspector, and inspectors of illuminating oils.

The Court regularly appointed the first officer for a number of positions until the time of a regularly scheduled election. They also appointed officers to fill vacancies until a special election or the next regularly scheduled election was held.