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23,000 people could be affected by Normandy 'debtors' prison' lawsuit

A preliminary settlement was approved. The city is accused of jailing people who couldn't pay excessive fines. Poor and Black people were targeted, attorneys say.
Credit: dianaduda - stock.adobe.com

ST. LOUIS — A federal judge has given preliminary approval to a settlement in a lawsuit that accuses the city of Normandy of issuing excessive fines for traffic and other minor offenses and then jailing people who couldn't afford to pay.

The ruling on Tuesday could affect up to 23,000 people who were arrested, jailed and/or paid fines or other city costs, or who were subject to an arrest warrant in Normandy between Sept. 10, 2013, and May 12, 2021, according to the ArchCity Defenders law firm, which filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends Normandy police and court officials targeted primarily poor and Black people when issuing municipal citations and fines.

ArchCity has filed seven lawsuits accusing St. Louis-area municipalities of running modern-day debtors' prisons that often led to people spending extended periods in jail for minor offenses.

Jason Retter, an attorney representing the city, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Of the seven cases filed by ArcCity Defenders, one with 2,000 class members against Jennings settled in 2016 for $4.75 million.

Currently, ArchCity Defenders and co-counsel have pending debtors’ prison cases against Ferguson, Maplewood, Edmundson, Florissant and St. Ann.