Municipal Courts, News

Here’s What’s Happening on the Muni Courts Front

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

— The Declaration of Independence

Back in August, I asked for your help in pushing for municipal court reform.

Cities that abuse their police and courts destroy liberty:

Together, these offenses against liberty and decency rise to the level offenses against which we rebelled in the 18th century.

Auditor Schweich’s Municipal Courts Project

In November, State Auditor Tom Schweich announced the Municipal Courts Project. The Auditor will audit 10 municipalities suspected of violating state limits on fines from traffic tickets. Missouri law requires cities to forfeit to the state revenues from traffic tickets that exceed 30 percent of total revenue.

The law does not prevent cities from enforcing traffic laws for safety. The intends to limit financial incentives for cities to write lots of tickets. I had the honor to stand with Republicans–Auditor Schweich and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann–and Democrats–State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal and State Rep Scott Sifton–as Auditor Schweich announced the project.

Senator Schmitt Steps Up

Today, I had the pleasure to meet with State Senator Eric Schmitt to learn about his efforts to further crack down on the courts. Eric SchmittSenator Schmitt has pre-filed legislation for the next general assembly that would reduce the traffic revenue limit to 10 percent from 30 percent. Senator Schmitt and I discussed further legislation, such as:

  • additional penalties for city official who knowingly fail to forfeit excess funds
  • requiring that municipal courts be open to the public
  • prohibiting cities from barring families and children from municipal courts
  • prohibiting cities form locking out defendants before their case is called
  • forcing cities to include all fines, fees, and warrants to the ticket revenue
  • limiting cities’ power to jail people over non-criminal traffic violations (with exceptions for flagrant violations of the court system)

I also recommended as witnesses several people who contacted me about their experiences with municipal courts. And I learned that friend of liberty, State Rep. Paul Curtman, will handle the bill in the House.


Please write your State Representative and State Senator to let them know you support Senator Schmitt’s municipal courts reform. He expects strong opposition from the Municipal League–sort of union for city managers and consultants. This being a bipartisan issue with a strong liberty theme, opponents risk marginalizing themselves.

And say “Thanks” to Tom Schweich ([email protected]) and Eric Schmitt([email protected]) for stepping up on behalf of people who need a voice in government.



Author: William Hennessy

Co-founder of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Persuasive design expertLatest book: Turning On Trump: An Evolution (2016)Author of The Conservative Manifest (1993), Zen Conservatism (2009), Weaving the Roots (2011), and Fight to Evolve (2016)I believe every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work as the only path to human flourishing.

4 Comments on “Here’s What’s Happening on the Muni Courts Front

  1. In 1965 and 1966 the abuses of the municiple courts were identified and fixes put in place. But the judges ignored Rule 37 directed at the municiple judges, and Rule 2 Judicial ethics and every other Missouri law that stood in thier way. Including those limiting ordinance fines to $200, and failure to appear to $200 no jail. And stop the incestuous relationship between prosecutors and judges which violate judicial and prosecutor ethics eliminating due process of law. The prosecutor is supposed to be facing the judge, not the judges law partner.

    The fix we need was spelled out 50 years ago. A central municiple court with full time judges, disengaged from the cities they now corruptly serve.

    We already have 4 county municiple courts. If we made them full time, 5 days a week, 4 nights a week, and Saturdays. We took the 50 most honest judges, and had them take shifts. But as they leave the bench replace them with full time judges. Use the existing traffic violations bureau to receive tickets from the municipalities. Throw out the really bad ones. Prepare the rest for court.

    We need to stop the lies:
    They call it “north county justice” for a reason. There is no justice in STL
    They call it “just us” for a reason…There is no justice in STL
    The attorneys call it “the culture” because there is no rule of law in STL
    The judge never had to issue the maximum penalty (or more) in each case.
    The court is not supposed to be the city’s tax collection agency
    Judges must follow the law, not just some of the law!
    Judges have always be able to give community service. But tax collectors want thier money.
    Courts insist Ordinance violations are civil. After 13th amendment and Missouri constitution… cannot be jailed for civil violations EXCEPT where the court refuses the rule of law!

    Shaking down motorists or residents is neither ethical nor legal in Missouri and should not be tolerated at any level.

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