Thomas Harvey | St. Louis Public Radio

Thomas Harvey

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley appeals a judge's ruling to block two abortion restrictions in the state.
WP PAARZ | FLICKR

The city of Ferguson says it plans to keep prosecuting about 1,500 municipal court cases that attorneys filed before 2014 — a decision that bothers advocates who point out they were the product of a policing system the federal government found unconstitutional.

Lamya Orr tries to greet a friend who is inside the Workhouse while standing outside the gate with his children and their mother.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Since Thomas Harvey helped start ArchCity Defenders in 2009, he has delivered legal representation to homeless and working poor people throughout St. Louis. But now, Harvey is taking part in a nationwide effort that could get tens of thousands of people out of jail while they await a trial.

Harvey is relocating to Los Angeles to take a position with the Bail Project, which is seeking to pay the bails of roughly 160,000 people over the next few years. The organization plans to set up operations in 40 cities, including St. Louis. Harvey says the work will change lives and communities — and provide momentum to an existing activist movement to end cash bail.

Arch City Defenders executive director Thomas Harvey speaking during a 2014 meeting of the Ferguson Commission.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Florissant has become the 16th north St. Louis County municipality to face a federal lawsuit for jailing defendants simply because they couldn't pay a fine or court cost.

The Arch City Defenders filed the class action lawsuit on Monday. It alleges that the five individuals were among hundreds, if not thousands, of defendants "threatened, abused, and left to languish in confinement until their frightened family members produced enough cash to buy their freedom, or until City jail officials decided, days or weeks later, to release them free of charge — after it had become clear the City would not be able to extract any money from them."

Thirteen St. Louis County cities were hit with a lawsuit this week, accusing them of violating the constitutional rights of people who broke local ordinances. The suit is seeking monetary damages and changes to how the cities operate.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Quinton Thomas saw firsthand what the criminal justice system looked like in St. Louis County municipalities. And what he witnessed wasn’t pretty.

The 28-year-old said he was fined by a number of county municipalities for what he deemed to be minor traffic offenses. When he couldn’t pay, Thomas said he was sent to a jail in deplorable conditions.

Thomas decided to fight back earlier this week. He’s part of a federal lawsuit against 13 St. Louis County cities. 

Ferguson resident Emily Davis waits to speak at a 2015 Ferguson City Council meeting. Davis is part of the Ferguson Collaborative, a group that's been following the consent decree process closely.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

For Emily Davis, the future of Ferguson will come down to attitude.

Davis is part of the Ferguson Collaborative, a group of people who live, work and pray in the beleaguered St. Louis County municipality. Davis has been closely watching Ferguson and the debate over a consent decree with the Department of Justice, which came into public view on Wednesday after a 131-page document was released to the public. 

File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson announced alterations to its embattled municipal court, including recalling warrants and providing alternative punishments.

The moves come as a multi-faceted state overhaul of the municipal court system is expected to have a sweeping impact on St. Louis County cities.

File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has proposed a new way to rank judges on gun crimes, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced that the off-duty officer who shot and killed VonDerrit Myers, Jr. will not be charged because Myers produced a firearm, and St.

Attorney General Chris Koster said the fragmented nature of St. Louis may inhibit long-term growth -- and may make policy change stemming from the Ferguson unrest difficult.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

In the limbo between Michael Brown’s death and the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the state of the Ferguson Police Department became something of a national obsession.  

Better Together’s Dave Leipholtz, Washington University law school professor Mae Quinn and Thomas Harvey of the Arch City Defenders speak at Monday's Ferguson Commission meeting.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Since the unrest in Ferguson began in early August, curbing the power of municipal courts has become a focal point for policymakers from across the political spectrum. 

But at Monday’s meeting of the Ferguson Commission at St. Louis University’s Il Monastero, Maryland Heights resident Dan Hyatt brought the issue home.

The IT professional told commissioners how he was put in jail in Breckenridge Hills for three hours after a disagreement over whether he stopped at a stop sign. He said it was a galvanizing experience.

Law Professionals Discuss Court Fines, Fees

Sep 30, 2014
People line up to take part in an amnesty program to clear up outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrants in August 2013, in Ferguson, Mo.
Jeff Roberson | Associated Press

In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations, according to documents filed with Missouri’s judicial department.

Meldon Moffitt says he had a bad experience paying a municipal fine in Jennings. Policymakers from across the political spectrum may change how cities administer their municipal courts.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson resident Meldon Moffitt is part of a hardy group of protesters known as the Lost Voices, mostly young people willing to sleep on the street to get justice for Michael Brown’s family.

Moffitt said he believes more than just Ferguson needs to change. He said, for example, he received a stiff fine in Jennings for driving on a suspended license, even though he said he had paperwork clearing up the matter.

It’s part of what of what Moffitt says is as an unfair system affecting African Americans like himself.