A federal appeals panel has ruled that a system of criminal fines and fees in the New Orleans criminal court was unconstitutional because the money is used to support a general fund overseen by the court’s judges.
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 23 on behalf of six criminal defendants who were jailed because they were unable to pay fines and fees. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law noted the decision in a press release.
The court said the temptation is too great when judges decide on ability to pay and then oversee the money that is collected.
Judge James Graves Jr., an appointee of President Barack Obama, wrote the panel opinion. Joining him were Judge James Ho, an appointee of President Donald Trump, and Judge Catharina Haynes, an appointee of President George W. Bush.