The U.S. Department of Justice released a report critical of the St. Louis County Family Court on Friday, finding that black youths are treated more harshly than whites, and juveniles are often deprived of constitutional rights. Though unrelated to the department's investigation in Ferguson, the new report again raises concern about racial discrimination and profiling in the St. Louis region.
The investigation from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division was initiated in 2013 amid complaints that black youths were treated unfairly in the family court, which handles about 6,000 youth cases each year. Treatment of African-Americans in the region drew increased scrutiny last year after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by a white police officer in Ferguson. The 60-page report arrived just over a week before the anniversary of Brown's death, Aug. 9.
"In short, black children are subjected to harsher treatment because of their race," Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta wrote in a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and Family Court Administrative Judge Thea Sherry. She called the findings "serious and compelling."
Nixon called the report "deeply concerning." Though in St. Louis County, the court is supervised by the Missouri Supreme Court. "All Missourians have a right to a fair and equitable justice system, and our young people are no exception," Nixon said in a statement.
Stenger said he will urge the court "to work with the state of Missouri to fix the glaring problems identified by the Department of Justice."
The report said the Justice Department will seek to resolve complaints through negotiations, though litigation remains possible. Gupta said at a news conference that an initial meeting with family court officials was "cordial and cooperative."
The department is taking a similar tack as after a report released in March alleging racial bias and profiling by police and the municipal court in Ferguson. That report was begun following Brown's death, and negotiations between the DOJ and Ferguson officials are still going on.
Two Zimbabweans arrested for illegally hunting a protected lion named Cecil were in court on Wednesday as anger at the kill by an American dentist escalated.
"If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property ... he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a statement Wednesday. The statement, emailed to The Associated Press, came from Ingrid Newkirk, president of the animal rights organization.
Social media on the internet — for example on Twitter under #cecilthelion — were also filled with condemnation of the killing of the black-maned lion just outside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean men — a professional hunter and a farm owner — are accused of helping Walter James Palmer hunt the lion. Zimbabwean police said they are looking for Palmer, who reportedly paid $50,000 to track and kill the animal.
During a nighttime hunt, the men tied a dead animal to their car to lure the lion out of a national park, said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. The American is believed to have shot it with a crossbow, injuring the animal. The wounded lion was found 40 hours later, and Palmer shot it dead with a gun, Rodrigues said.
Palmer, a dentist living in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, said in a statement that he was unaware the lion was protected, relying on local guides to ensure a legal hunt.
A Kansas abortion opponent must stand trial over a letter she sent to a Wichita doctor saying someone might place an explosive under the doctor's car, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned late Tuesday a lower court's summary decision that anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard's letter was constitutionally protected speech. The ruling comes in a civil lawsuit brought against Dillard by the Justice Department under a federal law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. A split three-judge appeals panel said the decision about whether the letter constituted a "true threat" should be left for a jury to decide.
The appeals court also rejected Dillard's argument that the government violated her free speech rights by suing her.
Emails were sent late Tuesday night to Dillard's attorney and a Justice Department spokesman seeking comment.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sued Dillard in 2011 under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act after the Valley Center woman wrote a letter to Dr. Mila Means, who was training to offer abortion services at her Wichita clinic. At the time, no doctor was doing abortions in Wichita in the wake of Dr. George Tiller's 2009 murder by an abortion opponent as Tiller ushered at his church.
In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals panel said a jury could reasonably find that the letter conveyed a true threat of violence.
"The context in this case includes Wichita's past history of violence against abortion providers, the culmination of this violence in Dr. Tiller's murder less than two years before Defendant mailed her letter, Defendant's publicized friendship with Dr. Tiller's killer, and her reported admiration of his convictions," the appeals court wrote in its decision.
Dillard wrote in her 2011 letter that thousands of people from across the nation were scrutinizing Means' background and would know her "habits and routines."
"They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live," the letter said. "You will be checking under your car every day — because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."
Means has testified that her fears upon getting that letter were heightened after reading a news story by The Associated Press that quoted Dillard saying in a July 2009 interview that she had developed a friendship with Scott Roeder while he was in jail awaiting trial for Tiller's murder.
A federal appeals court on Friday revived a legal challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal office created to protect consumers in financial dealings with banks, lenders and credit card companies.
The federal appeals court in Washington ruled that a Texas bank could challenge the constitutionality of the watchdog agency's powers even though the bank's conduct has not been subject to any enforcement.
A federal district judge had dismissed the lawsuit in 2013 after finding the bank had no legal standing to bring the claims.
The independent agency was created in 2010 by a sweeping law that overhauled financial regulations following the 2008 financial crisis. Wall Street interests and Republicans in Congress fiercely opposed the agency.
The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to consider the challenges.
Eleven states had joined the lawsuit filed by State National Bank of Big Spring, Texas, to argue that Congress delegated too much power to the bureau. They also argue that it should not be headed by just one person and that President Barack Obama illegally appointed the agency's director, Richard Cordray, during a congressional recess. Cordray was later confirmed by the Senate.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court said those arguments could proceed. Judge Brett Kavanaugh said the bank did not have to intentionally violate the law in order to launch a constitutional challenge.
But Kavanaugh said the bank could not challenge the constitutionality of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created by the financial overhaul law to designate certain financial companies deemed "too big to fail" for additional regulatory oversight.
The court also rejected the bank's challenge to part of the law that allows the Treasury secretary to order liquidation of a failing financial company that poses a risk to the financial stability of the U.S. government.
The government has argued that the bureau's structure and powers are constitutional.