Springfield, Mo.  Late Tuesday, a federal judge refused a state judge’s request to toss a lawsuit brought against him by civil liberties advocates.

In June 2017, Arthur and Norma Rogers, with their son-in-law William Hale, were seated in Judge Gaston’s courtroom for a custody hearing regarding the Rogers’ granddaughter. Arthur Rogers, who is hard of hearing, responded to several questions from Judge Gaston with “yes, sir” and “no, sir,” seeming to irritate the judge who then required that the Rogers and Hale be taken into custody by the sheriff and tested for drugs. Norma Rogers and William Hale were detained for nearly eight hours, restrained to a metal bench. Hale, who suffers from diabetes, was restrained around the ankle and, as a result, developed an ulcer leading to a partial amputation of his foot. Arthur Rogers was detained overnight.

Even when Judge Gaston received pharmacy records indicating that the Rogers and Hale were on prescription medications,  Judge Gaston maliciously prolonged their detention. And when Norma Rogers and William Hale were eventually released, Arthur remained unlawfully detained, depriving him of needed daily medications and the ability to care for ailing livestock on his ranch.

Judge Gaston’s behavior, in this case, represents a pattern of misconduct that impinges on constitutional freedoms.    

United States District Judge Roseann A. Ketchmark, of the Western District Southern Division, ruled that “Given the alleged policy and practices of Judge Gaston, there exists a substantial likelihood Plaintiffs would be chilled of future protected activity under the First Amendment. For instance, Plaintiffs may be chilled from attending hearings, a trial, or potential sentencing in the criminal matter because of Judge Gaston’s alleged policies. Therefore, the Plaintiffs’ claims for prospective declaratory relief are not moot, and will not be dismissed at this time.”

Tony Rothert, Legal Director for the ACLU of Missouri, praised the ruling. “Simply attending court as a spectator should not result in someone being arrested, subjected to baseless drug testing, and – in this case – losing part of his foot.”

Now that Judge Gaston’s motion to dismiss has been denied, the case can proceed. A trial date has not yet been scheduled but is expected next year.