ALANA CAIN; ASHTON BROWN; REYNAUD VARISTE; REYNAJIA VARISTE; THADDEUS LONG; VANESSA MAXWELL, Plaintiffs - Appellees
LAURIE A. WHITE, Judge Section A of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; TRACEY FLEMINGS-DAVILLIER, Judge Section B of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; BENEDICT WILLARD, Judge Section C of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; KEVA LANDRUM-JOHNSON, Judge Section E of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; ROBIN PITTMAN, Judge Section F of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; BYRON C. WILLIAMS, Judge Section G of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; CAMILLE BURAS, Judge Section H of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; KAREN K. HERMAN, Judge Section I of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; DARRYL DERBIGNY, Judge Section J of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; ARTHUR HUNTER, Judge Section K of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; FRANZ ZIBILICH, Judge Section L of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; HARRY E. CANTRELL, Magistrate Judge of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Defendants - Appellants
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
HAYNES, GRAVES, and HO, Circuit Judges.
E. GRAVES, JR., CIRCUIT JUDGE.
are former criminal defendants in Orleans Parish, Louisiana
who sued Defendant-Appellants, Judges of the Orleans Parish
Criminal District Court ("OPCDC"), under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Plaintiffs alleged the Judges' practices in
collecting criminal fines and fees violated the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court
granted summary judgment in Plaintiffs' favor. We affirm,
although we emphasize at the outset that the resolution of
this case is dictated by the particular facts before us.
are Alana Cain, Ashton Brown, Reynaud Variste, Reynajia
Variste, Thaddeus Long, and Vanessa Maxwell, former criminal
defendants in OPCDC who pleaded guilty to various criminal
offenses between 2011 and 2014. All but Reynaud Variste
qualified for and were appointed public defenders. At
sentencing, Plaintiffs were assessed fines and fees ranging
from $148 to $901.50. All were arrested for failure to pay
their assessed fines and fees, given a $20, 000 bond, and
spent anywhere from six days to two weeks in jail.
are twelve OPCDC judges, Judges Laurie A. White, Tracey
Flemings-Davilier, Benedict Willard, Keva Landrum-Johnson,
Robin Pittman, Byron C. Williams, Camille Buras, Karen K.
Herman, Darryl Derbigny, Arthur Hunter, Franz Zibilich, and
Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell (the
The Judicial Expense Fund ("JEF")
is established pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. § 13:1381.4
and consists of OPCDC revenue that is not designated or
restricted for a specific purpose. Accordingly, it is also
known as the General Fund. The JEF receives funding from a
variety of sources, including the City of New Orleans and
bail bond fees, but approximately one quarter of the monies
it receives comes from the court's collection of fines
Judges have exclusive control over how the JEF is spent, and
generally use it for the following:
salaries and related-employment benefits (excluding the
judges), CLE travel, legislative expenses, conferences and
legal education, ceremonies, office supplies, cleaning
supplies, law books, bottled water, jury expenses, telephone,
postage, pest control, dues and subscriptions, paper
supplies, advertising, building maintenance and repairs,
cleaning services, capital outlay, equipment maintenance and
repairs, lease payments, equipment rentals, professional and
contractual expenses, the drug testing supplies, coffee,
transcripts, insurance, and miscellaneous.
from the fund may not be used to supplement the Judges'
own salaries, although, as noted above, it can be used to pay
the salaries of court personnel. La. Rev. Stat. §
13:1381.4(D). Each judge is allocated $250, 000 per annum for
personnel salaries and $1, 000 for court costs from the JEF.
The fund also covers the cost of professional liability
insurance coverage as authorized by the Louisiana Supreme
Court. "For some time prior to 2011, some judges
received supplemental benefits" from the JEF in the form
of supplemental health insurance policies and reimbursement
for out-of-pocket medical expenses; however, this practice
fully ended by 2012 following an investigation by the
Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
collection of the fines and fees is reduced, the OPCDC can
have a difficult time meeting its operational needs, leading
to cuts in services, reduction of staff salaries, and leaving
some positions unfilled. During these times, the Judges have
attempted to increase their collection efforts and have also
requested assistance from other sources of funding, including
the City of New Orleans.
The Fines and Fees
Louisiana statutes and codes permit the Judges to assess
fines and fees to criminal defendants at sentencing. Some
fines and fees have specific purposes and are collected to be
distributed for specific statutory purposes, while others are
collected and then split between the court and other
agencies.However, some fines and fees go directly
into the JEF. The statutory requirements of yet other
fines and fees is ambiguous.
OPCDC's Debt Collection Practices
to this lawsuit, the Judges delegated collection authority to
the Collections Department, established by the OPCDC
judges in the late 1980s "to (1) facilitate
the collection of costs and fines [and] (2) to minimize the
administrative and logistical burden on" the OPCDC's
dockets. The Collections Department, supervised by both Mr.
Kazik and the Judges, worked with criminal defendants in
creating payment plans, accepting payments, and granting
extensions. The Collections Department had "no standard
list of factors or questions . . . to ask a criminal
defendant except those at intake when collections obtained
address, telephone and employment information and used it for
purposes of contacting the criminal defendant when they did
issuing a warrant for a defendant's arrest for failure to
pay a court debt, the Collections Department would send two
form letters to the defendant warning them of their overdue
fines and fees and the possibility of arrest for failure to
pay. If checking the court dockets or probation and jail
records did not reveal a reason for nonpayment, the
Collections Department issued an alias capias warrant for
contempt of court and generally set surety bail at $20, 000.
A person imprisoned on one of these warrants would ...