The Slatest

State Takes Over Ferguson Court System to Restore Order and Implement Reforms

Demetrus Washington protesting the death of Michael Brown on August 14, 2014.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

In the wake of the Justice Department’s scathing report on the bigoted all-around conduct of the Ferguson police department and its corrupt municipal court system, the Missouri state Supreme Court took over the operation of the municipal court, appointing an appeals court judge to hear all of the court’s cases, in an effort to try to restore some semblance of credibility to the legal system in the area. Judge Roy Richter will now be in charge of the municipal court that covers Ferguson and has been given the authority to “to overhaul court policies to ensure defendants’ rights are respected and to ‘restore the integrity of the system,’” according to the Associated Press.

“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 Russell said in a written statement. “Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the Court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis.”

“Last week the Justice Department called on the city to overhaul its criminal justice system, saying Ferguson had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight,” the New York Times reports. “The report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police actions.”

Sitting Ferguson municipal judge Ronald Brockmeyer resigned his post effective immediately on Monday evening. “Brockmeyer was criticized in the DOJ report for acting as a revenue-generator for the court and the city, helping to bring in millions through ‘creative’ use of fines and fees, while dismissing tickets for himself and friends,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The report also rapped him for instilling fear in traffic defendants, even jailing one man for 10 days because the man refused to answer his questions in court.”