'More specific' declaration against jailing indigents sought
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Civil rights attorneys want a federal judge to send a clearer, stronger message to state judges in New Orleans: People facing jail for court debts must get a fair chance to show whether they are able to pay.
It's the latest wrinkle in an ongoing 2015 lawsuit that accused New Orleans criminal courts of running what amounts to a "debtor's prison."
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance declared last year that it's unconstitutional for New Orleans judges to jail people without inquiring about their ability to pay court debts.
Civil rights groups cite a recent case in which a woman was jailed without sufficient chance to demonstrate her financial limits. They've asked Vance to issue a more specific ruling, calling for "meaningful" inquiries with advance notice to defendants.