NEW ORLEANS – A group of indigent men and women are suing the city of New Orleans and several judges and court officials over what they say is an illegal scheme to incarcerate the homeless.
Alana Cain, Ashton Brown, Reynaud Variste, Reynajia Variste, Thaddeus Long and Vanessa Maxwell filed a lawsuit Sept. 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against the city of New Orleans; Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; Marlin Gusman, Orleans Parish Sheriff; Arthur Morrell, clerk of court; Robert Kazik, judicial administrator; sections A-L of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court and the following judges: Laurie A. White; Tracey Flemings-Davillier; Benedict Willard; Dennis Waldron; Keva Landrum-Johnson; Robin Pittman; Byron C. Williams; Camille Buras; and Karen K. Herman; Darryl Derbigny; Arthur Hunter; Franz Zibilich; and Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell.
According to the complaint, the defendants routinely collect court debts by jailing or threatening with jail indigent people unable to pay court costs. The suit says all the plaintiffs were arrested on illegal warrants and remained in jail without hearings, allegedly in violation of their constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment protecting their rights, compensation for their unlawful imprisonment and litigation costs. They are represented by attorneys Billy Quigley and Anna Lellelid-Douffet, both of New Orleans, and Alec Karakatsanis of Washington, D.C.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana Case number 2:15-cv-04479