Ferguson's new municipal judge ordered massive changes today in the city's much-criticized municipal court, a move he said is aimed at restoring confidence in the system and easing the burden on needy defendants. Changes announced by Judge Donald McCullin include withdrawing many old arrest warrants; CNN reports that all Ferguson arrest warrants before 2015 will be rescinded. McCullin's plan also includes giving defendants new court dates and payment options, and allowing for community service or fines to be commuted for the indigent. McCullin will also reinstate driver's license for all defendants who lost their license for failing to appear in court or failing to pay a fine, pending final disposition of the case.
The changes come after a critical US Department of Justice report cited racial profiling among Ferguson police and a municipal court system that often targeted blacks, who make up about two-thirds of Ferguson's 21,000 residents. Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer resigned in March, and McCullin was appointed in June. The Justice Department's investigation began following concerns raised during the unrest that followed the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white Ferguson police officer in August 2014. Officer Darren Wilson was not charged and resigned in November, but the shooting spurred a national "Black Lives Matter" movement. "These changes should continue the process of restoring confidence in the court," McCullin says in a statement. (Read more courts stories.)