A Missouri appeals court judge has been given jurisdiction over municipal court cases from Ferguson, Missouri, essentially giving the state control of the city’s court system.
The transfer of power comes the week after the US Justice Department released a damning report showing systematic bias and discrimination in the city’s police department and courts.
Judge Roy Richter has been assigned to all current and future Ferguson municipal court cases, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Mr Richter also has been given the authority to reform Ferguson’s municipal court system.
“Though these are not courts of record, they are the first — and sometimes the only — impression Missourians have of their court system,” Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said in a statement. “Although we recognize the local control our statutes give these uniquely local entities, we must not sacrifice individual rights and society’s collective commitment to justice.”
Ferguson has been in the spotlight since last summer when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. The shooting set off sometimes-violent protests in the city and around the country, which worsened after the officer was exonerated by a grand jury.
The Justice Department investigation found that the officer acted properly, but that years of systematic bias by the Ferguson police department crumbled relations between the majority black populace and the majority white authority.
It is not clear how long the state will be in charge of Ferguson's court cases. A municipal judge named in the Justice Department report, Ronald Brockmeyer, resigned his post on Monday.
Ferguson officials did not return calls seeking comment on the transfer of judicial power.
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