Appeals court: New Orleans judges have conflict on fines

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court says state criminal court judges in New Orleans have a conflict of interest when they are faced with deciding whether some defendants are able to pay fines and fees that partially fund court expenses.

The decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling that the New Orleans judges must provide a “neutral forum” for determining whether a defendant can pay. The state judges had argued they were not swayed by their court’s financial interest when they determine whether a defendant was able to pay a fine or fee.

The appellate decision was dated Friday and became public Tuesday. It came in a 2015 lawsuit filed by people who said they were unconstitutionally jailed for failure to pay fines and fees.

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