The town of James Island has a code-enforcement officer but has not prosecuted a single code violation in the more than four years since the town was most recently incorporated.

That's primarily because the town has no municipal court, although Town Council voted to create one, and appointed judges nearly two years ago.

"We even went so far as to buy them robes," Councilman Leonard Blank said. "What has happened, though, is that Trent Kernodle (the town's appointed judge) said he's rethought it, and suggested that we have the county handle it."

With a new mayor in charge following this summer's election, the town is now asking Charleston County for permission to send code-enforcement cases to the county Magistrate's Court, essentially outsourcing the town's judiciary.

Like many towns, generally much smaller ones, James Island already relies on other governments to provide most public services, including sanitation and police and fire protection.

Without a police department, the town had little need for a municipal court, but without a court, there's no way to prosecute code-enforcement violations, such as someone leaving a junk car in the front yard.

"Generally, our code-enforcement officer negotiated with property owners, and they brought the property up to code," Mayor Bill Woolsey said. "We do have some cases in progress."

In South Carolina, any municipality may prosecute its cases in county Magistrate's Court, and most smaller municipalities go that route. Fines levied are used to finance court operations, and state surcharges go to the state.

Blank said aside from robes and a gavel, the town spent no money trying to form a court of its own, and the judges weren't paid.

He said former Mayor Mary Clark rebuffed previous suggestions that the county should adjudicate code- enforcement cases.

Kernodle, an attorney for the town who was appointed municipal judge, declined to comment. Town Council also had named former state Rep. John Graham Altman as its associate judge, and both men took the oath of office in early 2009.

The county and Town Council each would have to approve the plan for Magistrate's Court to hear the town's cases.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.