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Missouri Supreme Court, Municipal Courts, racial disparity, traffic stops, revenue generation, discrimination


The Missouri Supreme Court's unprecedented decision to take control of Ferguson's Municipal Court was based primarily on issues raised during sustained protest following the killing of Mike Brown and reports published by ArchCity Defenders and the Department of Justice. These reports highlighted racial disparity in traffic stops, excessive revenue generation, and excessive warrants and arrests and confirmed the lived experiences of poor and Black people in St. Louis: there is a racially discriminatory and profit-driven approach to law enforcement made possible only by the collaborative efforts of local government, police, and courts.

These condemned practices are not unique to Ferguson. Rather, many St. Louis municipalities are demonstrably worse than Ferguson with respect to the highlighted factors. And while there have been legal victories5 in the past year, new legislation,6 and the sustained efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Supreme Com1 should seize the opportunity to bring meaningful and transformative change to the region by following the recommendation of the Ferguson Commission7, ArchCity Defenders, SLU Law Legal Clinics, Better Together, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, and the Organization for Black Struggle: Order the consolidation of our 81 courts into a full-time, professional regional court system.


Prof. Voss is a co-founder of and former litigator with ArchCity Defenders of St. Louis, Missouri, a law firm specializing in civil rights practice.