The Supreme Court of Missouri has ordered an appeals judge to take over the municipal court in Ferguson one week after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report accusing the court of discrimination.
Judge Roy L. Richter of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, was assigned to the St. Louis County circuit court where he’ll hear cases from Ferguson.
His transfer will take effect March 16 and continue indefinitely.
As part of Richter’s placement, he’ll be given the authority to institute new polices in the municipal court.
“Judge Richter will bring a fresh, disinterested perspective to this court’s practices and he is able and willing to implement needed reforms,” Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said in a statement.
The move came less than a week after the Justice Department said the law enforcement and judicial system in Ferguson discriminated against African-Americans.
The DOJ report found Ferguson police predominately stopped and arrested black people without probable cause. The department’s focus on blacks accounted for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations and 93 percent of arrests. Ferguson’s population is 67 percent black.
DOJ investigators said city leaders mandated Ferguson law enforcement to focus on generating revenue for the city. Police routinely performed “suspicionless, legally unsupportable stops.” People were routinely punished for talking back to officers, who used retaliatory and punitive force, the report said. From those subsequent arrests, the city generated large amounts of revenue.
“Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis,” Russell said.
“More than two-thirds of all Missouri court cases are filed in the municipal divisions,” she said. “Though these are not courts of record, they are the first — and sometimes the only — impression Missourians have of their court system. Although we recognize the local control our statutes give these uniquely local entities, we must not sacrifice individual rights and society’s collective commitment to justice.”
The DOJ investigation was launched after an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson for the shooting and the DOJ said the officer’s actions didn’t constitute a “prosecutable violation.”
SOURCE: Danielle Haynes