13 local beacons of justice have been named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Chris Koster this morning alleging, among other things, failure to provide required annual financial reports, deriving too much of their revenue from municipal court fines, and several other offenses that those in the St. Louis legal community have known for years. The State also alleges that due to these violations, these municipal courts have lacked jurisdiction over traffic violations occurring in their towns since as far back as March 1 of this year.

The list of cities named as defendants includes: Bellerieve Acres, Beverly Hills, Breckenridge Hills, Crystal Lake Park, Hillsdale, Mackenzie, Moline Acres, Normandy, Pagedale, Pasadena Park, Uplands Park, Velda Village Hills, and Vinita Terrace.

The fact that other North County municipalities such as St. Ann, Charlack, Edmundson and about a dozen other municipalities survived being named in this suit is most surprising of all. Koster also alleges that these municipal courts have violated what is known as the “Mack’s Creek Law”, which prevents municipalities in this state from deriving more than 35% of their operating revenues from traffic fines for violations occurring on state or federal highways. By law, any excess revenue collected over that 35% cap must be handed over to the Department of Revenue (which then puts it back into local schools).

What will result from this suit will be extremely interesting, and it will be fascinating to watch this unfold as the calendar turns to 2015. Will these towns simply dissolve (like the town for which the ‘Mack’s Creek Law’ was named)? Will they merge? Will more towns be added to later versions of this suit? What about guilty pleas entered in these courts during the second half of this year? At a very minimum, I think we can expect much more fairness and transparency from these courts in 2015 and beyond.

You can read the lawsuit in full here.