After the Missouri Supreme Court assigned a state appeals court judge to oversee all municipal cases, Judge Ronald J Brockmeyer, 70, resigned his positions as judge in Ferguson and prosecutor in Dellwood. However, he kept his positions as prosecutor in neighboring Vinita Park and Florissant and judge in Breckenridge Hills.
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Brockmeyer was accused of running a modern-day debtor’s prison while fixing traffic tickets for himself and owing $170,000 in unpaid taxes, reported the Guardian.
Investigators accused Brockmeyer and his court officials of aggressively using the municipal court to raise revenue for the city, singling him out as the driving force behind the move.
The judge was criticized for fixing traffic tickets for colleagues and himself, punishing defendants who challenged him, and instituting new fees, many of which were “widely considered abusive and may be unlawful,” according to the Justice Department.
Such policies are believed to have fed into the deep mistrust between the community, two-thirds of whom are African-American, and the overwhelmingly white authorities, according to the DOJ report.
This rift has prompted Missouri’s supreme court to order all Ferguson court cases be transferred to the St. Louis County circuit court, “to help restore public trust and confidence in the Ferguson municipal court division,” according to a news release from the Missouri Supreme Court.
Judge Roy L Richter of the Missouri court of appeals will take over Ferguson’s cases to carry out “needed reforms to court policies and procedures in Ferguson to ensure that the rights of defendants are respected and to help restore the integrity of the system,” the release said.
“Judge Richter will bring a fresh, disinterested perspective to this court’s practices, and he is able and willing to implement needed reforms,” Missouri’s Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said in a statement. “Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon welcomed the move, saying “Today’s strong and appropriate actions by the Missouri Supreme Court are a solid step forward.”
St. Louis University law professor Brendan Roediger expressed hope in the state Circuit Court taking over the city court.
“It’s a very big deal because it actually is the solution,” Roediger told the New York Times. “It puts the cases in front of full-time professional courts with no conflicts of interest.”
Brockmeyer claimed he resigned after he and his family have recently received death threats.
“That’s one of the most important reasons — it’s not worth jeopardizing my family,” he said.
He also denied claims of refusing to pay taxes, stressing that he has been paying $5,000 a month to the IRS.
“The taxes aren’t being ignored. I’m making my payments, and they’re on time,” he said.