This Ferguson Judge Should Be In Prison

The DOJ report on the appalling criminal injustice system in Ferguson, Missouri includes a lot of information about the local municipal judge, Ronald Brockmeyer, who has essentially created an illegal debtor’s prison and boosted local revenue with a complex scheme of court fees that will land you in jail if you can’t pay them. And the Guardian reports that this same judge owes more than $170,000 in back taxes himself.

The judge in Ferguson, Missouri, who is accused of fixing traffic tickets for himself and colleagues while inflicting a punishing regime of fines and fees on the city’s residents, also owes more than $170,000 in unpaid taxes.

Ronald J Brockmeyer, whose court allegedly jailed impoverished defendants unable to pay fines of a few hundred dollars, has a string of outstanding debts to the US government dating back to 2007, according to tax filings obtained by the Guardian from authorities in Missouri.

Brockmeyer, 70, was this week singled out by Department of Justice investigators as being a driving force behind Ferguson’s strategy of using its municipal court to aggressively generate revenues. The policy has been blamed for a breakdown in relations between the city’s overwhelmingly white authorities and residents, two-thirds of whom are African American.

Investigators found Brockmeyer had boasted of creating a range of new court fees, “many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful”. A city councilman opposing the judge’s reappointment was warned “switching judges would/could lead to loss of revenue”…

While Brockmeyer owes the US government $172,646 in taxes, his court in Ferguson is at the centre of a class-action federal lawsuit that alleges Ferguson repeatedly “imprisoned a human being solely because the person could not afford to make a monetary payment”…

The judge was also named among a group of white Ferguson officials found by the Department of Justice investigators to be writing off citations for themselves and friends while punishing residents for similar offences. Another of these officials, court clerk Mary Ann Twitty, was fired by the city in connection with racist emails also uncovered by the inquiry.

The report said Brockmeyer agreed to “take care” of a speeding ticket for a senior Ferguson police officer in August 2014, and had a red light camera ticket he received himself from the nearby city of Hazelwood dismissed in October 2013.

“Even as Ferguson city officials maintain the harmful stereotype that black individuals lack personal responsibility – and continue to cite this lack of personal responsibility as the cause of the disparate impact of Ferguson’s practices – white city officials condone a striking lack of personal responsibility among themselves and their friends,” the justice department investigators said, in a scathing report on the city’s administration.

And this is absolutely astonishing to me:

Brockmeyer, who has been Ferguson’s municipal court judge for 12 years, serves simultaneously as a prosecutor in two nearby cities and as a private attorney. Legal experts said his potentially conflicting interests illustrate a serious problem in the region’s judicial system. Brockmeyer, who reportedly earns $600 per shift as a prosecutor, said last year his dual role benefited defendants. “I see both sides of it,” he said. “I think it’s even better.”

No, it sure as hell isn’t. This is simply outrageous. Brockmeyer not only should not be a judge anywhere at any level, the man should be in prison himself. This whole thing stinks to high heaven. Impose huge fees on poor people of color and then throw them in jail if they’re even a day late with a payment, while owing nearly $200,000 in back taxes yourself and dismissing tickets for white city officials? Is this a banana republic?

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  • raven

    This is happening a lot and more and more around the USA. Mostly in the pro family values GOP areas. The Big Lie is that the GOP is pro family values.

    1. Cut taxes claiming magic supply side economics.

    2. Magic doesn’t work. Deficits go up. Problem.

    3. Cut services. Problem solved.

    Half of those services are education. The rest is social safety net, police, fire, roads.

    So how do you finance necessary services after the magic of supply side economics and callous GOP politicians have wrecked your state and local governments?

    Any way you can. You let the police seize cash from anyone they stop because it might have been from illegal drugs. Police issue lots of tickets. Judges issue lots of fines. It’s basically exploitive colonialism of the subject population.

    It’s immoral. It’s dysfunctional. It’s counterproductive. It’s very…fundie xian.

  • llewelly

    Oops. You’ve got something similar to an open < blockquote > tag where you want a close < /blockquote > tag.

  • Trebuchet

    @2: At least Ed could conceivably fix that, if he reads the comments, which I don’t think he does. The rest of us are stuck with our blockquote foulups.

  • sugarfrosted

    @1 Supposedly there is a tax rate less than 100% where cutting the tax rate would increase revenue. It’s just nowhere near 50% either as the highest marginal rate during the Reagan Administration. Hell above that of scandinavian countries. Given that there is research showing what that rate is, at this point it’s more cherry picking science (in as much as econ is science) and ignoring the inconvenient bits.

  • raven

    Ferguson is 2/3 Black. Virtually all the city elected officials and bureaucrats are white down to the public schools. The whites farm the majority for money to keep the city going.

    1. How can this be? Why doesn’t the majority just vote them out of office?

    2. I’ve asked this before and no one really knows. The Blacks can’t all be convicted felons with no voter rights.

    I’m sure a city like Ferguson, uses every obstacle they can with ID’s, simply losing voter registrations, and so on. But that can only slow things down, not stop them. If the voter fraud gets too blatant, the courts start stepping in. (Or they used to, maybe I’m living in a different USA these days, Orwell’s 1984 USA.)

    3. In any event, it is time. They should all register and vote.

    There was a wild rumor going around in christofascist circles that community organizers were registered Ferguson citizens to vote. What horror, US citizens voting. (It turned out to be false. RWNJ’s are good at viral emails, bad at telling the truth.)

  • D. C. Sessions

    Part of the problem in places like Ferguson is just plain getting candidates on the ballot.

  • The Other Lance

    Is this a banana republic?

    Yes. Yes, this is a banana republic.

  • marcus

    They create an environment of hopelessness, despair, injustice, and corruption and wonder why black people in the community hate and despise them, or maybe they just don’t give shit.

    The Feds may not a case against Darren Wilson but it seems that they do against this judge. As noted in the title of this post this asshole belongs in jail, and hopefully soon.

  • busterggi

    Well they should have thought about the consequenses when they chose to be blac.

  • dugglebogey

    This judge threw a man, a veteran no less, in jail for being one day late with a $100 fine, while he owes a fine seventeen hundred times larger and hasn’t spent a second in jail. Brockmeyer deserves to lose his freedom for seventeen thousand times as long. Maybe seventeen million.

  • parasiteboy

    As far as I can tell, police or magistrates fixing tickets for fellow law enforcement officers, their family and friends is common. This is why people will have window stickers or cards that are associated with an officer, so they can point to them or show the card while getting their license.

    A while back the NYPD were complaining about the possibility of losing the ability to get rid of tickets for other officers family and friends. They called it a “professional courtesy”.

    With that said the racial bias in this case, along with the judges multiple jobs are alarming and very concerning. As for the back taxes, I think I may be becoming immune to hypocrisy.

  • Dunc

    Why doesn’t the majority just vote them out of office?

    Who are the other candidates? Are there other candidates?

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Well they should have thought about the consequenses when they chose to be blac[k].

    It may seem ridiculous, but I actually encountered someone – a real student of ethics, this one – who claimed that the “veil of ignorance” meant that people who are oppressed/get the short end of the social stick in some way become oppressed/get the short end **because they embraced ignorance**. People who don’t embrace ignorance, he claimed, aren’t oppressed.

    Oy, gevalt. “If you don’t put on the veil of ignorance, you see, you choose to be a white guy.” I’m sure that’s totes what Rawls was saying. Really.

  • mudskipper

    The Missouri Supreme Court has appointed the Circuit Court to take over Ferguson municipal court cases. Brockmeyer has resigned.

  • StevoR

    B-b-b-but he’s white!

    (Do I need to say this is sarcasm? Yes, it is.)

  • blutexan

    I believe the correct percentage of ferguson is 46% black.

  • raven

    @16 Not sure where you got that number.

    As of 2010, 67.4 percent of the city’s 21,000 residents are black, and 29.3 percent are white. The state of Missouri, by comparison, is 83 percent white and 11 percent black. Ferguson’s black population was almost nonexistent four decades ago, when 99 percent of the population in 1970 was white, Census data show.Aug 17, 2014

    Ferguson, Mo., has 50 white police officers, three black …