Municipal Courts the Target of New Missouri Law

It has been argued that certain cities in Missouri are capitalizing off of residents who violate local ordinances, and Governor Jay Nixon signed a law last Friday to help get to the bottom of the situation. Some of these ordinances include violations from nuisance pets and noxious weeds on property. The new law is designed to assign reasonable caps on how much to charge for these types of infractions.

Nixon pointed out that the purpose of the court system is to protect the community and not to try to profit off of it. Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt agrees with this sentiment. He said, “It is unconscionable cities would use fine money — whether from traffic tickets or silly violations like the location of one’s barbecue grill or the way their blinds are hanging — to prop up bloated bureaucracies.”

This is not the first attempt for lowered fines. A similar push was made last year to regulate what can be charged for minor traffic tickets. The legislation is largely a response to the recent protests in Ferguson. The public is becoming increasingly concerned that these funds are used to fund city operations.

In addition to lower fines, the new law will also put a limitation on the number of municipalities court judges can serve. This effort is being made for lawyers who serve as both judges and legal counsel in various jurisdictions simultaneously.

While recent efforts are being made with the public in mind, critics have brought up points to consider. Executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis Pat Kelly argues that nuisance ordinances, in fact, do not play a significant role in the operation of municipalities. He also pointed out that, with a limited ability to manage houses in disrepair, these instances would rise and decrease the overall aesthetic appeal of Missouri communities.

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