St. Louis suburb runs town hall on ticket money. Is that illegal?

We’ve reported many times on the syndrome of towns outside St. Louis which, often lacking another promising tax base for municipal services, run ticket mills so as to get by on fine and fee revenue. Missouri law limits the share of their budget that can be derived from traffic fines, but not other fines, which means that some towns like Pagedale hammer their homeowners and other locals with regular fines over untrimmed trees, barbecue sets left in front yards, and other minor offenses. But is this illegal? An Institute for Justice lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of persons fined for violations as minor as mismatched blinds. [Scott Shackford, Reason]


  • Maybe the people of Pagedale should consider electing different politicos.

  • An appealing line for the lawsuit would be the 8th Amendment ban on “excessive fines.”

    Congress, invoking its authority under the 14th Amendment, should make clear that “excessive fines” by States and localities are civil rights violations of interest to Federal courts and the Department of Justice.

    When is a fine “excessive”? When it is grossly in excess of the economic damage or risk of the fined activity.

    Governments like Pagedale that cannot subsist without excessive fines should be dissolved, with understanding that county government can pick up their worthwhile functions.