A Ferguson, Missouri judge first got in hot water when the Justice Dept. accused him of fixing traffic tickets and unfairly punishing residents over unpaid fees. But 70-year-old Ronald Brockmeyer has another problem: more than $170,000 in outstanding taxes, the Guardian reports. According to tax liens filed by the IRS, Brockmeyer's federal debts include tens of thousands in personal income taxes, and tens more in employer taxes for his law firm and a yearly tax bosses pay to support the unemployed. On the bright side, he recently paid off three unpaid bills that come to $64,599. The judge, who owns three properties around St. Louis, didn't respond to several Guardian phone calls and emails seeking comment.
The Dept. of Justice says he's a top player in Ferguson's strategy of generating revenue through its municipal court—which is blamed for ruining relations between the city's mostly black residents and white officials. Brockmeyer's court has allegedly jailed poor people who couldn't pay fines, and he's admitted to inventing court fees that are often "widely considered abusive and may be unlawful," investigators say. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that like others in St. Louis County's court system, Brockmeyer is a judge one day and prosecutor the next—which some legal experts say creates a conflict of interest. But Brockmeyer, who makes $600 for each prosecuting session, says his judge work enables him to help defendants. "I see both sides of it," he tells KSDK. "I think it's even better." (Read more Ferguson, Missouri stories.)