Missouri looks at possible Ferguson-style bias in other courts

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 02, 2015 4:41 PM

By Kevin Murphy

(Reuters) - The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday widened an investigation into the practices of city courts around the state following its takeover of the Ferguson municipal courts in the days after a U.S. Justice Department report found widespread abuses.

The top state court asked Missouri residents to report questionable treatment they believe they have encountered in city courts across the state.

"Recent events have raised issues about practices and procedures in the municipal courts of Missouri," the Supreme Court said in a statement.

There are about 525 municipal court divisions in Missouri.

In early March, the state Supreme Court assigned a state appeals court judge to take over cases in Ferguson after the U.S. Justice Department released its report detailing widespread abuses in the St. Louis suburb's courts.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into Ferguson's policies and practices after white police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in a confrontation last August. No state criminal charges or federal civil rights charges were brought against Wilson.

However, the Justice Department found that Ferguson police disproportionately arrested and issued traffic citations to African-Americans to boost city revenue, creating a culture of distrust that was exposed after Brown's shooting.

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The state Supreme Court asked for comments to be submitted by May 1 and said it could not change the results of cases already decided. Complaints about judges or prosecutors should be submitted through disciplinary channels, it said.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by David Bailey and Eric Beech)