This Louisiana Town Runs Largely on Traffic Fines. If You Fight Your Ticket, the Mayor Is Your Judge.


Fenton gets 92.5 percent of its revenue from fines and forfeiture—the average municipality in the U.S. gets 1.7 percent.

A Louisiana town that covers 20 blocks with only 226 residents has garnered national attention for its predatory reliance on fines and forfeitures. To make matters worse, Fenton is home to a mayor’s court—only found in Louisiana and Ohio. In a mayor’s court, the town’s mayor is also the judge, appoints the prosecutor, and decides the verdict if defendants ask for a trial. This presents a conflict of interest because the court’s primary function is processing thousands of traffic tickets, and the town’s operating budget is primarily comprised of revenue from those fines. In FY 2022, Fenton collected $1.3 million from traffic tickets. Although the educational arm of the Louisiana Supreme Court advises mayors to appoint an attorney to preside over their court if they raise more than 10 percent of the municipal budget, the mayor, Eddie Alfred Jr., thinks appointing a magistrate should be put off.

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Samantha Sunne, Dannah Sauer & Lee Zurik
ProPublica & WVUE-TV