Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Supreme Court Backs STL County on Trash Districts

Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of St. Louis County in the class-action lawsuit brought by three county residents (Mike Weber, Paul Marquis, and Cathy Armbruster v. St. Louis County) in 2009, who argued that the county’s creation of eight trash districts violated the county charter.

By a vote of 5-2, the state’s court of last resort affirmed the decision of the Missouri Court of Appeals, thus ending any further litigation in one of the four trash lawsuits.

In its majority opinion, written by Judge William Ray Price, Jr., the high court held that:

(1) the county did not violate its charter by establishing the trash district areas,

(2) that the plaintiffs/taxpayers lacked standing (the right to sue) to challenge the two-year notice before replacing the previous trash haulers,

(3) that the county did not violate the state’s merchandising practices, and

(4) that the county’s ordinances were not improper/invalid.

Two of the seven judges dissented. The dissenting opinion was written by Judge Michael Wolff. In the dissenting opinion, Judge Wolff wrote that the county charter requires voter approval of trash districts for which a service charge will be collected and that the county charter does not specify whether the charge must be collected by the county. He also wrote that he would reverse the circuit court’s decision and let the county’s voters decide whether to approve the new trash collection arrangements.

There are still three trash lawsuits pending in the courts. In the first case, (American Eagle et al. v. St. Louis County), the trash haulers won their case against the county requiring a two-year notice before implementing a trash districting program. However, Circuit Judge Barbara Wallace withheld her decision on damages until the high court ruled in the present case. Now that the class-action case is final, it seems plausible that the three trash haulers (American Eagle, Meridian, and Waste Management) will be awarded damages, which could amount to $23 million.

With regard to the “right to vote” case (Buchanan et al. v. St. Louis County), which was the second lawsuit, filed by two residents in 2008, it appears likely that St. Louis County may prevail in that case.

 And, in the “Hancock Amendment” case (Grace v. St. Louis County), which was the third lawsuit, filed in 2009, it seems that the county may also prevail in that case.

However, as the three plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit learned, anything can happen in the courts, especially in the U.S. and states’ Supreme Courts, since the decisions of those courts impact public policy, thus making them political, as well as judicial institutions.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:17 AM

    Well, as predicted, St. Louis County again prevails in pushing thier agenda over the will of the people. King Dooley rules.

    As far the penalty punishment handed to all of the loosing private businesses, it will be a pitance of what is expected. At best, they are only entitled to their profits and not the revenue of the stolen business. And after the judge rules on a final formaula to calculate the award, it will end up being about 10 cents on the dollar of the small profits that were being made. The loosing business might be lucky to share in a hundred thousand dollar award and not the $23 mill they really lost.

    Justice is served, only it is served in very, very, small pieces.