Furlow v. Belmar

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

July 8, 2016

Current Status 

CCR and co-counsel filed our motion for class certification on August 25, 2017, and both parties are concurrently briefing motions for summary judgment as well.

Co-Counsel 

Arch City Defenders (St. Louis) and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

Client(s) 

Dwayne Furlow, Ralph Torres, Howard Liner

Case Description 

For many years, St. Louis and surrounding Missouri counties have permitted police officers to issue the equivalent of a statewide arrest warrant into an electronic database, designating an individual for immediate summary arrest for up to 24 hours at a time, without ever seeking a judicial determination of probable cause. This practice is known in St. Louis as issuing a “wanted”. Wanteds are used for serious state-level crimes and minor code violations alike, including traffic offenses. In some cases, wanteds seem to be issued merely because officers want to take custody of an individual for questioning. It is unclear how long a wanted may stay in the system – potentially months or even years. Evidence suggests law enforcement makes arrests on the basis of the existence of wanteds without first confirming that they are still valid or that the wanteds themselves are supported by probable cause, as required by the Fourth Amendment. The wanted system operates in St. Louis with no judicial oversight, despite the widespread nature of the practice. Indeed, it appears that there are approximately 2 million wanteds in the statewide database.

In its March 4, 2015 report on Ferguson, Missouri, the Department of Justice was strongly critical of the “wanted” system.  

Furlow v. Belmar, pending in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, challenges the so-called wanteds system as used in St. Louis County, Missouri because it routinely leads to unconstitutional arrests of area residents, the majority of whom are Black. The case raises several claims based on foundational constitutional provisions, including violation of the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights stemming from their wrongful seizure and arrest; violation of their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent under unwanted police questioning, and violations of their Fourteenth Amendment rights for depriving plaintiffs of their liberty without due process of law.

The Furlow case continues CCR's long legacy of racial justice litigation and advocacy at a critical political moment in the U.S., especially as it relates to inequity in law enforcement practices and accountability.

Case Timeline

August 29, 2017
Plaintiffs file motion for summary judgment
August 29, 2017
Plaintiffs file motion for summary judgment
Plaintiffs file our motion for summary judgment, along with our statement of uncontroverted material facts.
August 25, 2017
Plaintiffs file motion for class certification
August 25, 2017
Plaintiffs file motion for class certification
CCR, Arch City, and Paul Weiss move to certify two classes of plaintiffs: Class 1: All persons who, since February 24, 2011 have been arrested pursuant to a Wanted issued by St. Louis County without a judicial determination of probable cause either prior to or promptly after their arrest, including those persons who were arrested without probable cause. Class 2: All persons who, since February 24, 2011 have been the subject of a Wanted issued by St. Louis County and have been denied procedural remedies to quash the Wanted.
July 28, 2017
Case reassigned to new district court judge, Hon. John A. Ross
July 28, 2017
Case reassigned to new district court judge, Hon. John A. Ross
July 28, 2017
Plaintiffs file motion to compel discovery of Regional Justice Information Service Commission (REJIS)
July 28, 2017
Plaintiffs file motion to compel discovery of Regional Justice Information Service Commission (REJIS)
Plaintiffs move to compel REJIS to produce certain documents, information and data. Defendants and REJIS file briefs in opposition. The court grants in part and denies in part the motion.
July 29, 2016
Defendants answer our complaint
July 29, 2016
Defendants answer our complaint
Defendants Jon Belmar, St. Louis County, Officers Walsh and Partin, and Detective Clements file their answer to our complaint.
July 8, 2016
Arch City Defenders and CCR file first amended complaint
July 8, 2016
Arch City Defenders and CCR file first amended complaint