New Orleans City Council Passes Resolution Ending Fines and Fees

The resolution, drafted by the Vera Institute of Justice, ends harmful “user pay”-funded criminal legal system in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS - Yesterday, the New Orleans City Council passed a resolution discouraging judges from imposing fines and fees, by subtracting $2 of city funding from local Criminal District Courts for every $1 imposed by judges in criminal cases. The resolution, drafted by staff in the Vera Institute of Justice’s New Orleans office, will help keep $3.5 million annually in the pockets of New Orleanians impacted by the criminal legal system.

“The criminal legal system shouldn’t be funded on the backs of people passing through it. The New Orleans City Council demonstrated their commitment to this principle,” said Will Snowden, director of Vera’s New Orleans office. “The resolution encourages judges to use discretion and keep close to $3.5 million a year in our communities.”

In New Orleans, judges extract $1.9 million annually from poor, mostly Black and brown residents in court costs, despite a 2018 federal court ruling that found New Orleans’s system of “user pay”-funded courts unconstitutional. Vera and other reform organizations, like the New Orleans Alliance for Equity and Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, have been battling to pass legislation prohibiting fines and fees that exacerbate racial and economic disparities.

This is a remarkable win for New Orleans and a model for ending the unjust practice of generating court funding from the city’s poorest communities.

The full resolution can be found here.


The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely on for safety and justice. Vera collaborates with the communities most impacted by these systems and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement change. Across projects, Vera is committed to explicitly and effectively reducing the burdens of the justice system on people of color and frames all work with an understanding of our country’s history of racial oppression. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, providing legal services for immigrants, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities. Vera has offices in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, DC; New Orleans; and Los Angeles.