A Ferguson judge singled out by the Justice Department for the aggressive fines he has handed out reportedly owes the Internal Revenue Service about $170,000.
Judge Ronald Brockmeyer has a backlog of taxes due to the US
government going back to 2007, according to the Guardian. The
judge’s fining policies were singled out by the DOJ investigation
into the Ferguson Police Department and city court system, and
were found to be aggressive and used to unfairly target African
The federal tax liens filed against Judge Brockmeyer are for tens
of thousands of dollars in overdue personal income taxes from
multiple joint filings with his wife, Amy, according to tax
filings obtained by the Guardian. He also owes tens of thousands
in employer taxes for his law firm and an annual employer-paid
tax meant to fund unemployment benefits. Since November 2013,
Brockmeyer has paid off another three overdue tax bills totaling
— Crooks and Liars (@crooksandliars) March
The judge is also accused of fixing traffic tickets for himself
and colleagues while punishing residents for similar offenses.
The DOJ report said Brockmeyer agreed to “take care” of
a speeding ticket for a senior Ferguson police officer in August
2014. He also had a red light camera ticket he received himself
from the nearby city of Hazelwood dismissed in October 2013.
“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 Justice Department
Additionally, investigators found the judge responsible for
creating a new range of court fees, “many of which are widely
considered abusive and may be unlawful.” His court is also
at the center of a class-action federal lawsuit files by 15
citizens against Ferguson and Jennings, and was charged with
creating a modern day debtors prison.
“If you’re poor and black and standing in front of court
saying, ‘I can’t afford this,’ I think the court is less likely
to listen to you,” Tom Harvey, the director of Arch City
Defenders and a lawyer who represents one of the lawsuit’s
plaintiffs, said to NBC News.
“Judge Brockmeyer not being incarcerated is a perfect
illustration of how we should go about collecting debt from
people who owe it,” he said.
Ferguson judge behind aggressive fines policy owes $170,000 in
unpaid taxes http://t.co/SnqVspNoEm
— The Guardian (@guardian) March
Another plaintiff, Roelif Carter, a 62-year-old disabled military
veteran, alleges he was arrested and jailed for three days in
Ferguson in 2010 after trying to pay the $100 monthly installment
for his outstanding traffic fines on the second day of the month
rather than the first, when it was due. While living in
“constant fear,” he was arrested and jailed three more
times in the following years when he was unable to pay the
monthly charge, the lawsuit alleges.
The American Civil Liberties Union has leveled the same
accusation against other state and local courts that have turned
to aggressive fee collections as to way to fund operations
without burdening taxpayers. The organization said such methods
violate the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which promises
due process and equal protection.
Brockmeyer has served as municipal judge for 12 years, as well as
a prosecutor in two nearby cities and as a private attorney.
Legal experts say there is a conflict of interest, but Brockmeyer
maintains of his multiple roles, “I see both sides of it. I
think it’s even better.”