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Missouri court strikes down part of law passed in wake of Ferguson conflict

[JURIST] A Missouri court struck down [opinion, PDF] part of a law on Monday that was passed in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson last yea. Senate Bill 5 [text] was passed as a response to widespread concern regarding the revenue being made in Ferguson courts after a US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] report following the shooting of Michael Brown. The bill placed caps on revenue that can be collected from traffic fines, with St. Louis County receiving its own separate limit, the lowest limit in the bill. Judge Jon Beetem found that the law unconstitutionally targeted St. Louis County's police departments based on the individualized revenue limit as well as mandates involving other procedures of these departments. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster [official website] subsequently announced plans to appeal [AP report].

Ferguson was not one of the municipalities involved in the suit but did provide the spark for the bill in question. Earlier this month the DOJ and the city of Ferguson filed [JURIST report] a settlement agreement [text, PDF] to conclude a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] brought by the federal government last month. In September a Ferguson reform panel released a report [text, PDF] calling for the consolidation of police departments and municipal courts [JURIST report]. In August a new Municipal Court judge in Ferguson ordered sweeping reforms of courtroom practices following a damning federal report of racial bias [JURIST report]. The DOJ report released last March cleared [JURIST report] the former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson from federal prosecution for Brown's death. Former attorney general Eric Holder additionally stated that the report showed [press release] that racial disparities in police practices could not be alternatively explained other than through racial bias, which he says is proven through statistics and an examination of records and emails. In October 2014 Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported that police in Ferguson committed human rights abuses [JURIST report] against peaceful protesters in August 2014. Also in October 2014 a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that a tactic employed by the Ferguson police to control protesters, in which protesters had to constantly keep moving, is unconstitutional because it prevented protesters from peacefully assembling on public sidewalks.

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