Summary of the cause of action
Fifteen percent of the Bogalusa City Court’s revenue is derived from court fines and fees. Judge Black gives indigent defendants the options of jail for nonpayment of fines and fees or the payment of an illegal $50 extension fee to buy additional time to pay their court debt. Individuals are not allowed to make partial payment or to create a payment plan. Plaintiffs alleged violations to their due process and equal protection rights because Judge Black had a financial interest in the outcome of each case before him and the sentences were imposed without any inquiry as to their ability to pay.
The parties entered into a stipulated settlement agreement on September 1, 2017. The agreement included:
- One week of amnesty allowing individuals with exiting warrants to appear before the court and clear their warrants related to their failure to appear.
- New Court procedures informing defendants of their right to counsel and an ability to pay determination.
- Removal of default jail sentences when the person is unable to pay court fines and fees.
- Creation of payment options for non-indigent defendants.
- Discontinuation of the $50 extension fee.