The percentage of defendants represented by legal counsel in St. Louis City Municipal Court
White defendants have legal representation in Municipal Court twice as often as black defendants.
A score of 100 represents racial equity, meaning there are no racial disparities in outcomes. The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.
For Legal Representation, a score of 100 — a score reflecting racial equity — would mean black and white defendants are equally likely to be represented by legal counsel in Municipal Court. It is important to note that for this indicator, equity is not our only goal: we also want to improve outcomes for all.
What does this indicator measure?
Legal Representation measures the percentage of defendants represented by legal counsel in St. Louis City Municipal Court. In 2016, there were 37,806 court cases heard in Municipal Court, in which 22.4% of defendants were represented by legal counsel.
Legal Representation analysis
Defendants represented by legal counsel in St. Louis City.
|All||White||Black||Disparity Ratio||Equity Score|
|Court cases in which defendant was represented by legal counsel||8,453||4,292||3,821||-||-|
|Legal Representation Rate||22.4%||38.4%||18.1%||2.118 to 1||40|
Data Source: St. Louis City Municipal Court, 2016.
What does this analysis mean?
White defendants are more than twice as likely as black defendants to be represented by legal counsel in St. Louis City Municipal Court. In 2016, 38.4% of white defendants had legal representation compared to 18.1% of black defendants. If legal representation were equitable, 4,278 more black defendants would have had legal counsel.
Why does Legal Representation matter?
The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the rights of U.S. citizens in court, including access to a lawyer if they stand accused of a crime. However, in municipal court, while any defendant has the right to hire legal counsel, the court is not obligated to appoint counsel if certain conditions are not met. These conditions include (a) indigent status and if (b) the defendant is likely to be sentenced to jail time in the event they are found guilty. In Missouri, a person is presumed indigent if the person is in the custody of the Children’s Division or the Division of Youth Services or if they have unencumbered assets less than $5,000 AND have total household income below 125% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Defendants with legal representation can get better outcomes in court for charges both minor and major. A court representative can help their clients get charges dismissed or reduced, or advocate for their client to receive alternative sentencing to a costly fine or points against their driver’s license.
Richard Torack, Court Administrator for the St. Louis City Municipal Court: "Our [justice] system works better when lawyers are involved that educate their clients."
This baseline report looks solely at the St. Louis City Municipal Court under City jurisdiction, however, in the future, this indicator can be expanded to include the 22nd Circuit Court.
Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are linked with this indicator?
The Ferguson Commission’s calls to action related to legal representation include:
Questions for further investigation
- Why is there a racial disparity in Legal Representation?
- What can St. Louis do to reduce racial disparities in Legal Representation?
- What initiatives are currently underway to reduce racial disparities in Legal Representation?
How can I learn more about this issue?
ArchCity Defenders released a white paper on regional municipal courts in 2014, where they found, "Whether one can resolve ordinance violations often depends on his or her ability to hire an attorney and pay fines."