During the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown and the ensuing civil unrest, organizations like Better Together, the Arch City Defenders, SLU Law Legal Clinic, and the Ferguson Commission shone a light on a litany of abuses taking place in municipal courts throughout St. Louis County. National publications like The Washington Post even published stories highlighting the abuses that had become commonplace in our local courts (How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty). Many observers cited the abuse of authority in the courts as a central reason for the sustained unrest.
In a rare display of solidarity, state legislators from both parties acted to pass historic reforms aimed at curbing these abuses and restoring the public trust in our local justice system. The need for reform was so great that the reform bill, Senate Bill 5, passed the senate on a unanimous vote.
Now, through Senate Bill 520, Missouri legislators are attempting to quietly gut these critical reforms, which included:
- Limiting the ability of cities to easily collect revenue through their courts
- Providing protections for the poor to have their ability to pay considered; and
- Ensuring citizen accountability for cities that don’t comply with state law.
We must ensure that the MO legislature knows it cannot repeal these essential court reforms and return us to a system where preying on the poor and underrepresented is the norm.
If you would like to contact your legislator for more information or to express your concerns, you can find their information here.