The Courts

Municipal Courts Initiative
Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich announced the Municipal Courts Initiative this morning. Schweich’s auditors will be looking for, among other things: compliance with Mack’s Creek Law (revenue generated from traffic violations exceeding 30% of total revenue for municipalities shall be remitted to the state), statistics on warrants, and corruption.

Ten municipalities throughout Missouri have been targeted though Schweich noted that this list was not exclusive: Bella Vista, Ferguson, Pine Lawn & St. Ann in STL County; Foristell in St. Charles County; Foley & Winfield in Lincoln County; Leadington in St. Francois County; Linn Creek in Camden County; Mosby in Clay County. Anecdotal evidence from around the state suggests that abusive municipal courts & traffic enforcement is not unique to the STL area. One has to wonder whether the same abuses have occured with red light cameras.

Schweich emphasized that safety as a motivator for law enforcement will not be impacted. Rather, law enforcement motivated by revenue will be a primary focus of the audits. When asked whether the audits will focus on traffic enforcement violations, Schweich stated that the audits will examine any possible violations of law by municipal courts.

While the auditor’s office will be examining the municipal courts for violations of Missouri law, Attorney General Chris Koster will ultimately have to punish those violations. The penalty for violating Mack’s Creek Law includes loss of jurisdiction for the violating municipality. Whether Koster will punish violations with the blessing of Governor Jay Nixon remains to be seen.

Schweich was flanked by a bipartisan group of legislators & community leaders, including state senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal & STL Tea Party Co-Founder Bill Hennessy. Here is Hennessy’s statement at the press conference: