In a unanimous opinion, The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a group of taxpayers do have legal standing to challenge the creation of the Franklin County Municipal Court.
The decision is a victory for two Villa Ridge residents, Art LeBeau and Eric Reichert, who have been vocal critics of county government. They spearheaded the suit and argued the case themselves in various legal proceedings.
They were among a group of citizens who sued the county in circuit court alleging that an amended Missouri House bill that authorized the creation of the court was unconstitutional because the amendment contained a different subject matter than the original bill and that the county order based on that bill was void.
The original bill dealt with juvenile courts but was later amended to include language regarding the county municipal court. The amendment dealt with the population a county must have in order to establish a municipal court.
In 2013, Associate Circuit Court Judge Robert Schollmeyer dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing (legal ability) to bring the claim and the taxpayers later appealed. The Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals transferred the case to the Supreme Court.
Judge Zel Fischer, writing for the Supreme Court, ruled that the taxpayers do have standing to bring the case.
“As the standing analysis demonstrates, LeBeau and Reichert are not necessarily proceeding on their individual interests. Instead, they challenge the law based on the public interests implicated by the unlawful expenditure of money generated through taxation,” Fischer wrote.
The court also overruled a motion by the county seeking damages for a frivolous appeal. It remanded the case back to circuit court for trial.
For more information on this late-breaking story and reaction to the court’s opinion see emissourian.com and the Weekend Missourian.