On September 30, 2019, the ACLU of Missouri sued Texas County, Missouri associate circuit judge Douglas Gaston and several deputy sheriffs. Together, the judge and sheriffs detained, restrained, and drug tested three people without cause.
In June 2017, Norma and Arthur Rogers went to a proceeding in open court concerning their granddaughter’s custody. They were not parties to the case. They intended to observe the hearing and—if an opportunity arose—to offer to care for their granddaughter. Their son-in-law, William Hale, was there too, since he had given the child’s parents a ride.
The judge for the case was Douglas Gaston. Many in Texas County know Judge Gaston for his temper and for mixing his personal opinions with the law.
After the proceeding began, Judge Gaston noticed Mr. and Mrs. Rogers for the first time. He began questioning Mr. Rogers aggressively from the bench and took offense at his responses.
At Judge Gaston’s direction, without a warrant or probable cause, a deputy sheriff took Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, as well as Mr. Hale, into custody for drug testing. Law enforcement escorted them to the county jail, where officers forced the family to urinate and cuffed them to a bench for hours. Because of his ankle cuff, Mr. Hale, who suffers from diabetes, developed an ulcer on his foot. After this episode, a portion of his foot required amputation. It is still susceptible to frequent infection.
Mr. Rogers spent the night in jail. Judge Gaston justified it thusly: “You just bought yourself 24 hours in the Texas County Jail for that look.”
“No judge is above the law,” said Anthony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Missouri. “Judge Gaston, of all people, should know this.”
Judge Gaston founded the Constitution Project, a program that introduces high school students to basic principles of constitutional law.
“Detaining, drug testing, and restraining this family who had come to observe open court violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments,” Rothert said. “Mr. Hale should not have suffered an amputation. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers should not have been imprisoned and humiliated. Missourians deserve fair treatment, no matter who they are or where they live.”