Municipal Courts Study

“Our current system is not working, and the data shows that our African-American communities are paying the highest price for this systemic failure.”

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The combined populations of the 90 municipalities in St. Louis County account for only 11% of Missouri’s population yet bring in 34% of all municipal court fines and fees statewide ($45,136,416).

average net revenue of a municipal court in St. Louis County

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Twenty of the 21 municipalities that derive at least 20% of their general budget from fines and fees are located in North County.

Key Findings:

Lack of Oversight

A judicial circuit in Missouri contains 8.6 municipal court divisions on average. St. Louis County’s circuit contains 81 municipal court divisions. So, the presiding judge of St. Louis County’s circuit courts must oversee nearly ten times the number of courts and judges as an average presiding judge in Missouri.

Prolific Collection of Court Fines and Fees

In 2013, the municipal courts of St. Louis City and County collected $61,152,087 in fines and fees. During that same time, the combined total of court fines and fees collected by Missouri municipal courts was $132,032,351.63. This means that the municipal courts in the St. Louis region accounted for 46% of all fines and fees collected statewide, despite being home to only 22% of Missourians.

Municipal Courts as a Revenue Stream

20 of the 21 municipalities that derive at least 20% of their general budget from fines and fees are located north of Olive Boulevard and within the boundary of I-270. Furthermore, there are fourteen municipalities in St. Louis County whose largest individual source of revenue is municipal fines and fees. Thirteen of those fourteen are also located within this geographic area.