Conflict Arises in St. Louis Court Reform Plan


While law professors and activists call for dramatic reforms for municipal courts in St. Louis County — including getting rid of them — more moderate changes are being pushed by an ad-hoc committee of municipal court officials, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Municipal Court Improvement Committee, mostly judges, prosecutors and court officials, has introduced several proposed changes, according to a memo written by its chairman, Frank Vatterott, a defense attorney and veteran municipal court official who has been a judge since 1991.

But a rival group says the proposals do not go far enough and said the committee was “the foxes guarding the henhouse.” The committee's first change would be to encourage the courts to adopt uniform schedules for fines, Vatterott said. Several courts vary widely in the fines assessed for the same charge, which, he said, was unfair. Next, the committee would push for a uniform schedule for bonds, although it still polling the courts to determine how significant the problem is. Then the committee would make volunteer lawyers available to offer legal advice to municipal court defendants.

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