Posted at 16:59h
"Charged for Justice in New Orleans"
October 12, 2017
by Mathilde Laisne
It’s a Saturday. The line winds around the block. People have been waiting for hours to get in. Inside, the hallways are crowded and the air is tense. The people who are walking out, though, are smiling. They look both surprised and relieved. They’re not here for the latest iPhone or some new trendy brunch place; they’re here for a warrant clinic. And yet we’re not in court but in a church building in the 7th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans. People from all over the city have waited all day to see a judge and clear a warrant that’s been hanging over their heads for months, often years. Almost every person who’s come in today is black. For one man who walked out the door, it meant turning an overwhelming $23,000 in accumulated traffic fines and interest into a single $9 payment.
The clinic, put together by a grassroots organization called Stand with Dignity, as well as the Municipal and Traffic Court of New Orleans, the City Attorney’s office, and Orleans Public Defenders is an astounding success. In just one day, over 1,000 people came to get a warrant cleared. Most of these warrants were issued for a missed court date to pay the fines and fees attached to their case. The judges who dedicated their entire day to the clinic waived hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and fees and dealt with the underlying case, if possible. Attendees were promised they would not get arrested if they came to the clinic, and not a single person was.