Jefferson City, MO (KTRS) The Missouri Supreme Court is setting new minimum standards for municipal courts in response to accusations that courts in the St. Louis area routinely violate the rights of the poor.
Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge spoke of these new standards on Thursday at the joint annual meeting of the Missouri Bar Association and the Judicial Conference of Missouri in Lake Ozark. “At this luncheon a year ago, I challenged us to stand together to ensure we are worthy of the public’s trust and confidence. Today that speech feels like it was a very long time ago. Some days times flies; other days are agonizingly slow … like dog years. ” said Breckenridge.
Breckenridge added. “Last year, I was idealistic. I talked about the challenges we were facing in our Missouri courts, particularly those raised by the Department of Justice. I encouraged you to lead and influence the culture of our profession. I continue to steadfastly believe we each can improve our courts and legal community.”
The high 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.
The standards go into effect July 1.