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Mini Law School: Municipal Courts Reform Efforts

Each year, The Missouri Bar collaborates with law schools and legal professionals from across the state to deliver Mini Law School for the Public courses. During these sessions, attendees can hear in-depth discussions about various law-related topics. This Public Podcast Series is an opportunity to hear recordings from the 2015 sessions.

The shooting of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, and the events that followed, sparked legislative reaction that culminated in several bills that address socio-economic problems in the city and dozens of other North St. Louis County municipalities.

One bill that made it through the legislative process and was voted into law mandates sweeping municipal court reform.

SB 50, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, seeks to address a breakdown of trust between people and the government and court system.

Schmitt’s bill, he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, would mean that, “Moving forward, there would no longer be a system of taxation by citation.”

“Under this bill, cops will stop being revenue agents and go back to being cops,” Gov. Jay Nixon said when he signed it into law.

In this lecture, Schmitt, a North County native, explains the history of St. Louis County’s struggle and how his measure is “the third phase” of what will define the county for the next decade, and maybe even the next 50 years.

Schmitt is joined in the discussion by Hon. Frank Vatterott, who in 1980, became the judge in Vinita Terrace, a tiny village in north St. Louis County.

In this discussion, he tells attendees, “We’re learning to treat people with more empathy and still have safety. We’re not perfect, we certainly have made a hell of a lot of mistakes, including me, but I think we’re going somewhere – to stop this nonsense with these little towns.”

“We have to separate the people we’re mad at from the people we’re afraid of – and we haven’t done that,” Vatterott says.

The talk and a subsequent Q&A is divided into three recordings, found below.

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Stay tuned as the entire series of podcasts is posted.

Interested in attending an in-person discussion? 2016 Mini Law School in St. Louis courses begin March 23. Click here for a full schedule of speakers and information on how to register.

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