ST. LOUIS — In a story Sept. 23 about municipal court standards, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the standards go into effect July 1. The standards went into effect Sept. 20.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Missouri Supreme Court issues municipal court standards
The Missouri Supreme Court has issued a set of minimum standards for municipal courts in response to accusations that courts in the St. Louis area routinely violate the rights of the poor
ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Supreme Court has issued minimum standards for municipal courts in response to accusations that courts in the St. Louis area routinely violate the rights of the poor.
Some have decried the practice of holding defendants in jail who aren’t able to pay fines or bail and sometimes have to wait days or weeks to see a judge, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2dmGZ73).
The state Supreme Court established a requirement for municipal courts to have a judge on duty at all times to rule on warrants and bail, and to offer alternative sentences for people who can’t afford to pay fines. Municipal courts must also have a clerk on duty for at least 30 hours a week, and must at least be pursuing court automation to allow online payments. Under the new standards, the courts have to make available free online access to information about pending cases, outstanding warrants and scheduled dockets.
Courts must also meet in a space that is large enough to accommodate the public.
Bryan Dunlop, a lawyer who works as a municipal judge in Maplewood and Beverly Hills said he doesn’t see any problems with the new standards.
Some critics say the new standards, which don’t have any penalties for failure to comply, do not go far enough. Municipal courts only have to certify twice a years to the presiding judge in their circuit that the standards are being met.
One of the recommendations from the Ferguson Commission suggested the consolidation of the county’s 80 courts. The commission was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to study ways to resolve issues in the community after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in August 2014.
Brendan Roediger is an associate law professor at St. Louis University who has sued several courts in St. Louis County on behalf of poor clients.
“The presiding judge and the Supreme Court don’t have the inclination or the time to supervise these courts,” Roediger said. “What we need are rules that can be enforced in an individual case.”
The standards went into effect Sept. 20 when the order was issued.