News & Stories

Tue, 03/10/2015 - 1:37pm by Diane Stiefermann

Statement from Ferguson Commission Co-Chairs Rev. Starsky Wilson and Rich McClure on Municipal Court Reform

FERGUSON COMMISSION CO-CHAIRS COMMEND SUPREME COURT ACTION CALL FOR ACCELERATED REVIEW OF OTHER MUNICIPAL COURTS

We commend the action taken yesterday by the Missouri Supreme Court to reassign all Ferguson municipal court cases to the circuit court effective March 16 until further notice and call on the Court to accelerate the review of other St. Louis County municipal courts.

This action is clearly necessary to restore basic principles of consistency, fairness and equity to our municipal courts as well as to restore public confidence, which has been eroded by local and national attention to abuses.

The public feedback, expert testimony and data presented at our Commission meetings have made it clear that our municipal court system is broken. We welcome the Missouri Supreme Court's direct intervention and involvement "to help restore public trust and confidence in the Ferguson municipal court division" and lay the groundwork for continued reform and community healing.

In a statement, Mary R. Russell, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, stated that “extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the Court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis." Last week the Department of Justice report focused on Ferguson but referred to issues in surrounding communities as well. It is clear that the issues highlighted in Ferguson are not unique, and that action is needed throughout our municipal court system.

It is clear that our region needs more self-initiated review and accountability – our citizens should not have to wait for justice to be mandated. Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones took a step this week when he granted full amnesty for all outstanding traffic tickets issued before their police department was disbanded in April of 2012. We call on each municipal court and city leaders to quickly review their own practices and request the intervention and supervision of the circuit court based on that review.

The action happening around municipal courts is a shining example of the opportunity the St. Louis region has if it works together at all levels. The passion of individual voices; the scholarship and action of scores of local attorneys and professors; county, state and federal government; and now the state judicial branch have all played a role in holding the municipal court system accountable in ways that will change the system – for the betterment of our region.

During the Commission meeting on December 15 at St. Louis University, we called upon responsible elected and appointed officials to take action on municipal court reform. On December 18 we joined Attorney General Chris Koster as he announced lawsuits against municipalities who exceeded the statutory limit for traffic fine revenue. We now commend Missouri Supreme Court and the St. Louis County Circuit Court for taking action in Ferguson, and ask that they accelerate actions in other St. Louis County municipal courts.

The Commission working group on municipal courts, co-chaired by Commissioner Traci deVon Blackmon and Commissioner T.R. Carr, Jr., will continue its work aligning community concerns with policy and organizational recommendations. The Commission will continue to shine a light on and actively support the individuals, organizations and institutions taking direct action toward positive change for our region.