Hennessy's View

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:

  * Abusive cities[ turn citizens against their police forces](https://hennessysview.com/2014/08/19/end-game-ferguson/)
  * Abusive cities sponge off the poor
  * Abusive cities operate debtor prisons
  * Abusive cities subvert respect for the law and the courts
  * Abusive cities[ demean and demoralize their citizens](https://hennessysview.com/2014/08/20/municipal-court-kangaroo-court/)
  * Abusive cities repel business and jobs
  * Abusive cities condition people to bow down to government

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2R2d0B7liI

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 Schmitt Senator 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.

Action

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 (moaudit@auditor.mo.gov) and Eric Schmitt(eschmitt@senate.mo.gov) for stepping up on behalf of people who need a voice in government.


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