Five months after a Department of Justice (DOJ) report concluded the city of Ferguson, Missouri, functioned as a revenue device and manipulated citizens through stealth taxes, a new judge has instituted vast modifications to the Ferguson court system.
Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin, appointed in June, announced the changes on Monday.
Among the extensive revisions, Judge McCullin has dismissed all outstanding warrants issued prior to January 1, 2015 and warrants which are beyond five years old; he has announced litigants will be assigned new court dates and granted community service or payment plans as alternatives for fines; and declared indigent people may have their cases commuted.
McCullin also ended city policy which suspended driver’s licenses for failure to appear in court or pay fines.
“These changes should continue the process of restoring confidence in the Court, alleviating fears of the consequences of appearing in court and giving many residents a fresh start,” said McCullin in a statement.
Stealth taxation should not be a device for a city’s advantage for survival.
Doubling or tripling fines, suspending driver’s licenses and issuing arrest warrants for minor infractions is patently absurd.
Now exposed, the arbitrary power exercised by Ferguson’s court system and the police department’s mutually reinforcing role left citizens of Ferguson toiling under the weight of excessive government.
Ferguson’s overarching policy engendered restlessness among citizens and fostered a legitimate, deep and durable unhappiness with a government they view as clutching an unquenchable appetite for power and tax revenue.
In observance of the law, McCullin’s mandates appear more than reasonable to re-store the longing of the public to once again believe in government serving the people.
[Reuters] [Photo courtesy Occasionalplanet.org]