When lawyers in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division investigated the operations of the Ferguson Police Department and municipal court system, they found that local officials blamed a lack of “personal responsibility” among “certain segments” of the community for the incredible number of arrest warrants issued. DOJ’s report, which found that the city used its municipal court as a way to generate revenue, said that “lack of personal responsibility” was one of the “negative stereotypes about African Americans” held by decision makers in Ferguson.
Ferguson’s municipal court process has undergone a massive overhaul over the past few months: top officials have resigned or been fired and the state Supreme Court even stepped in to essentially take over the municipal court system on a temporary basis. But in federal court, Ferguson is sticking to old arguments. As the city defends itself against a civil rights lawsuit brought on behalf of individuals the city jailed for days and weeks because they could not afford bail after being arrested for minor municipal code violations, an attorney for the city is arguing, essentially, that the poor people lacked personal responsibility.