By Michael Nam
Shortly after the Missouri Supreme Court tapped a state appeals-court judge to handle current and future municipal cases in Ferguson, Mo., the troubled city’s municipal court judge, Judge Ronald Brockmeyer—named in the Justice Department investigation into Ferguson for abusive fines and excessive jail sentences—resigned, KMOV-TV reports.
According to the DOJ report that exposed how law enforcement, the judiciary and the city council disenfranchised Black residents, Judge Brockmeyer was repeatedly described as being an important figure for revenue collection for the city of Ferguson.
“Judge Brockmeyer was first appointed in 2003, and during this time has been successful in significantly increasing court collections over the years,” according to one note by the finance director of the city council.
When a councilmember did state concerns about the judge in 2012, she noted that Brockmeyer “does not listen to the testimony, does not review the reports or the criminal history of defendants, and doesn’t let all the pertinent witnesses testify before rendering a verdict.” The city manager responded to this effort to switch out Judge Brockmeyer with “[i]t goes without saying the City cannot afford to lose any efficiency in our Courts, nor experience any decrease in our Fines and Forfeitures.”
The aggressive fines and penalties assessed by Judge Brockmeyer has the appearance of being hypocritical in light of tax filings that The Guardian obtained, showing that the judge owes $172,000 in back taxes to the federal government.
“Finally, they listened to us over the last six months and for some people for years,” activist Alexis Templeton told KMOV. Though she also added, “I know the system, and I know how the system always works. But that doesn’t stop the ticketing. That doesn’t stop the random pulling us over. That doesn’t stop the profiling. That doesn’t stop the racial tension.”
While Judge Brockmeyer may be out, it remains to be seen if additional changes will truly be made as other criticized members of Ferguson’s governance and justice system still maintain their positions.
As for Brockmeyer’s replacement, appeals court Judge Roy Richter will be stepping in for the time being. “Judge Richter will bring a fresh, disinterested perspective to this court’s practices and he is able and willing to implement needed reforms,” said Chief Justice Mary Russell of the Missouri State Supreme Court.