A Missouri state appeals court judge will take over all current and future cases assigned to Ferguson`s municipal courts following a scathing U.S. Justice Department report that found systemic abuses, the Missouri Supreme Court said on Monday.
The court said the transfer of Judge Roy Richter would take effect on March 16 and was aimed at helping restore public trust and confidence in the courts. Richter will also have the power to implement needed reforms to court policies and procedures.
"Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis," Chief Justice Mary Russell said in a statement.
Ferguson municipal judge Ronald Brockmeyer, criticized in the Justice Department report, resigned on Monday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported.
The Justice Department launched an investigation into Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, following the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, 18, by a white police officer in August.
The department found insufficient evidence to charge Officer Darren Wilson with federal civil rights violations, but found pervasive racial bias in Ferguson`s police and courts practices.
The department`s report found that Ferguson`s police officers overwhelmingly arrested and issued traffic citations to blacks to swell city coffers through fines, creating a culture of distrust that exploded after Brown was fatally shot.
Instead of acting as neutral arbiter, the court primarily uses its authority to compel payment of fees and fines, imposing unnecessary harm, overwhelmingly on African Americans, the report found.
In one case the department cited, a woman received two parking tickets totalling $151 plus fees in 2007. Seven years later, after paying $550 in fines and fees, being arrested twice and spending six days in jail, she still owed Ferguson $541.
Brockmeyer`s attorney said in a statement posted on the Post-Dispatch website that Brockmeyer hoped appointment of a new judge would help restore public confidence that has diminished following the Justice Department report.
The statement said the judgeship is a part-time position not involved in day-to-day operations and Ferguson`s court clerk routinely performs essentially judicial duties including accepting guilty pleas and issuing subpoenas.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles noted last week that the city announced last year it was reducing some fines and the number of offenses that could result in arrests.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called the state Supreme Court`s actions "a solid step forward."