A judge in Ferguson, Missouri, who is known for jailing residents unable to pay even the smallest of fines, owes $172,000 in unpaid taxes–just the latest revelation to come out of this week’s report from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Judge Ronald J. Brockmeyer, who repeatedly incarcerated poor defendants that could not pay small fines—sometimes less than $100—owes the U.S. government $172,000. The unpaid tax burden goes back as far as 2007.
In the Department of Justice report, Brockmeyer was cited by name as having been aggressive in using Ferguson’s municipal court system in order to bring in revenues to the city. The report even accuses Brockmeyer of devising a new range of court fees,
“…Many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful.”
But it would appear that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander when it comes to this particular judge. He can jail defendants for not paying dubious court fees while at the same time walking free and owing the IRS nearly $200,000. Must be nice, huh? This point was not lost on Thomas Harvey, the director of Arch City Defenders who said:
“Judge Brockmeyer not being incarcerated is a perfect illustration of how we should go about collecting debt from people who owe it.”
Adding to the obvious hypocrisy of the situation, Brockmeyer was also accused in the DOJ report of having written off citations issued against him or friends of his while sending those who appeared before him to jail when they could not afford to pay their way out of the situation. The report concludes:
“Even as Ferguson city officials maintain the harmful stereotype that black individuals lack personal responsibility–and continue to cite this lack of personal responsibility as the cause of the disparate impact of Ferguson’s practices–white city officials condone a striking lack of personal responsibility among themselves and their friends.”
The criminal justice infrastructure of Ferguson, Missouri—the police department and its courts—are in need of serious reform. Otherwise a privileged few will continue to use their positions of power to enrich themselves while the less fortunate are imprisoned—or gunned down—with impunity.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org.