Court strikes down law passed after DOJ report on Ferguson

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FERGUSON, MO (KTVI)- A Jefferson City judge condemns major parts of a law aimed at limiting the amount of money that St. Louis County municipalities can make through court fees and traffic tickets.

The law in question, Senate Bill 5, grew out of the unrest following the Michael Brown shooting and was meant to reform municipal courts.

Governor Nixon signed it after a scathing Department of Justice report described the municipal court in Ferguson as an abusive fundraising tool and called for changes in how municipal courts function.

Judge Jon Beetem`s ruling strikes down a key section of Senate Bill 5 that limits St. Louis area municipalities to less revenue from traffic tickets and court fines than elsewhere in the state.
Senate Bill 5 reduced revenues statewide that a municipality could make from traffic fines and court fees from 30 percent to 20 percent of a city`s budget.

But in St. Louis County that percentage was capped lower at 12.5 percent.

Several north St. Louis County municipalities called the law improper saying it unfairly targeted them and the judge agreed. The judge also struck down other parts of the bill requiring police departments in St Louis County municipalities to have written use of force policies and procedures for reporting police stops.

The judge deemed those mandates unconstitutional because there was no state funding source.

Senate Bill 5`s main sponsor, Senator Eric Schmitt from Glendale, says he has already contacted Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to appeal the ruling.

Governor Nixon issued a statement after the court ruling saying the bill had strong bipartisan support and took much needed steps to end municipal court abuses in the St. Louis region.
Nixon now wants to work with the legislature to make any needed changes.

It should be noted that while much of the whole municipal court controversy developed out of what happened in Ferguson, the city of Ferguson was not among the municipalities that sued to stop the law.