NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge says state criminal court judges in New Orleans have a conflict of interest because they rely on fines and fees for court funding.
That, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance said in a Wednesday ruling, raises the possibility that the court's financial needs affect judges' rulings on whether defendants are able to pay fines and fees.
Vance also ruled that judges have violated defendants' rights by failing to make inquiries on their ability to pay.
Her ruling came in a lawsuit in which defendants accused the court of running what amounts to a "debtor's prison."
Bill Quigley, a lawyer for the defendants, said the ruling could affect courts throughout Louisiana.
An attorney for the judges didn't immediately return a call for comment Wednesday night.
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