There are only two states in the USA that have mayor’s courts. Those states are Ohio and Louisiana. Since 1898, mayor’s courts in Louisiana have had limited criminal jurisdiction “over all violations of municipal ordinances” reads Chapter 33 of Title 441 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes – as traffic violations, for instance.
Mayors in wards with less than 5,000 inhabitants function as judges in misdemeanor cases, whether or not they have a law degree. Nonlawyer judges “try all breaches of the ordinances and impose fines or imprisonment, or both.”
Like state judges, mayors are elected, and therefore, they cannot always be impartial. But the fact that those mayors also control law enforcement and the local budget constitutes an additional conflict of interests. They are three parties in one and the same person so to speak.
Woodforth in Rapides Parish, a few miles south of Alexandria (central Louisiana) beyond Interstate 49, is known as the state’s speed trap number one. Cases of traffic stops in the USA demonstrate daily how quickly one can land in jail (if not even worse). A woman’s case is reported in the article “The Woman Who Spent Six Years Fighting a Traffic Stop” by Ken Armstrong.
The Louisiana Municipal Association provides the Mayor’s Court Handbook. The author calls mayor’s courts a “somewhat enigmatic tool of justice.”
Judge Mark Jeansonne and his successor
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