Ronald Brockmeyer, the judge whose the driving force behind Ferguson's debtor's prison and owes $170,000 in taxes, has resigned less than a week after a scathing federal report called his court little more than an ATM for the city.
The Missouri Supreme Court has ordered all Ferguson Municipal Court cases transferred to Judge Roy L. Richter of the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Missouri.
In a statement, Brockmeyer denied that he had been unfair to defendants who appeared before him, deflecting most of the blame to the court clerk and the police chief. Nonetheless, he said, he recognized that the DOJ report had "diminished the public confidence in the Ferguson Municipal Court."
Brockmeyer's resignation in Ferguson does not affect his appointments with other municipal courts. In addition to being the municipal judge in Breckenridge Hills, he is the city prosecutor in Florissant, Vinita Park and Dellwood.
The Missouri Supreme Court has ordered all pending and future cases from Ferguson transferred to the St. Louis County court, and assigned Judge Richter to hear them, starting March 16. Richter will also have wide latitude to reform Ferguson's court procedures.
"Judge Richter will bring a fresh, disinterested perspective to this court's practices, and he is able and willing to implement needed reforms," chief judge Mary Russell said in a statement. It also said that "the Court also is assigning staff from its state courts administrator’s office to review Ferguson municipal court practices and to assist Richter in making necessary changes.
“'Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the Court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis,'” Russell said.
The Supreme Court's decision received high marks from state House Minority Leader Jake Hummell of St. Louis, and fellow Democrat Brandon Ellington of Kansas City, the chairman of the legislative Black Caucus.
"Public trust in the system is impossible when constitutional rights are commonly violated and justice is rare. The problems with the Ferguson municipal court’s operations are too disturbing to be allowed to continue, and we appreciate the Supreme Court’s swift and appropriate action to begin restoring integrity to the city’s system of justice," the two men said.
Brendan Roediger of the Saint Louis University law clinic was less impressed.
"It's the supervisory authority that we've been asking the Supreme Court to utilize all along," he said. "I certainly don't believe that Brockmeyer is the worst municipal court judge. I hope the Supreme Court uses this power to look at other courts and to take similar measures with other courts."