A new municipal judge in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday ordered sweeping changes to court practices in response to a scathing Justice Department report following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown a year ago.
Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin, appointed in June, ordered that all arrest warrants issued in the city before Dec. 31, 2014 be withdrawn.
Defendants will receive new court dates along with options for disposing of their cases, such as payment plans or community service. Fines may be commuted for indigent people.
McCullin, who is black, [was this necessary, Reuters?] ordered instead that if an arrest warrant is issued for a minor traffic violation, the defendant will not be incarcerated, but will be released on their own recognizance and given another court date, the city said.Recall that the people of Ferguson languish under a criminalization of everything (done while being black) regime which levies fines, layered with penalties and topped off by jail in order to fund the tiny city's operations, including that of the police and local courts. In effect, people were being arrested and fined in order to pay for the police to arrest them. And in this, Ferguson is hardly an outlier.
"These changes should continue the process of restoring confidence in the Court... and giving many residents a fresh start," said McCullin in a statement.
He added that many people who have had drivers licenses suspended will be able to obtain them and start driving again. In the past, the city's director of revenue would suspend a defendant's driver's license solely for failing to appear in court or failing to pay a fine.
McCullin replaced Judge Ronald Brockmeyer who resigned after being criticized in the Justice Department report.[bracketed comment mine]