Don’t Get a Speeding Ticket Where the Mayor is the Judge

Cop Writing Speeding Ticket

Have you been issued a ticket in Fenton, Louisiana?

The Mayor Acts as the Judge

Many drivers traveling between central Louisiana and east Texas pass through Fenton, Louisiana, on U.S. Route 165. The court, where the mayor presides, primarily processes the numerous speeding tickets issued by Fenton’s police officers annually, many of which are given on this particular one-mile stretch of highway. [1]

Fenton, with a population of 226, generates over $1 million annually through its mayor’s court, a unique justice system where the mayor can also act as a judge despite being in charge of town finances.

The village of Fenton, located outside the oil and gas town of Lake Charles, spans approximately 20 blocks. There is a City Hall, a library, and a gas station, a small public housing complex, a Dollar General, a grain elevator. There is a Baptist church as well. Drivers traveling from central Louisiana to east Texas pass through the town in less than a minute.

Fenton shares similarities with other small towns in Louisiana. However, with a population of 226, it collected a significant amount of money in one year through fines and forfeitures, primarily from traffic tickets, surpassing most other municipalities in Louisiana, as shown by audits.

In the fiscal year ending in June 2022, Fenton generated $1.3 million through that method.

The fines were collected through a type of small-town court called a mayor’s court, which is found only in Louisiana and Ohio. In Fenton, its primary function is processing the large number of traffic tickets issued each year by a limited number of police officers. In this particular town, the mayor fulfills multiple roles, including that of a judge, appointing the prosecutor, and determining the guilt or innocence of drivers who request a trial.

Village officials provided inconsistent and unclear explanations regarding the mayor’s responsibilities, the process of reducing or dismissing tickets, the town’s request for license suspensions, and the frequency of trials. The town’s description of how its court operates did not align with the guidance of the state Judicial College or a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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A Small Town with a Large Budget

Fenton’s court is a significant contributor to the town’s higher revenue compared to other municipalities of similar size in Louisiana for the year ending in June 2022. The tiny village collected a similar amount through fines and forfeitures as Shreveport, the state’s third-largest city, with a population of 187,000. The state does not provide an official definition of “fines and forfeitures,” but it typically refers to penalties for breaking the law and associated fees.

According to the Urban Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., the average municipality in the U.S. receives 1.7% of its revenue from fines and forfeitures. The percentage in Fenton is 92.5. [2]

According to a survey by WVUE and ProPublica, that municipality in Louisiana has the highest percentage compared to others, based on audits on file with the state.

It has one of the highest percentages in the entire country. According to a review of local government data by the news outlet Governing in 2019, Fenton ranked second-highest for its share of revenue derived from fines and forfeitures.

Mayor’s courts operate in a legal gray area according to Louisiana law. Similar to municipal courts, they are responsible for handling violations of local ordinances. Municipal judges are required to have a law degree and pass the bar exam, while a mayor can preside over the court without any specific qualifications. Similar to a municipal judge, a mayor has the authority to issue fines or impose jail sentences.

Mayor’s courts are responsible for ensuring that defendants receive fair trials. However, unlike other courts in the state, they are not subject to rules such as the Code of Criminal Procedure that are intended to ensure the fair and proper functioning of courts.


The Consequences of Being Rude

Fenton’s court records indicate a justice system where individuals may be penalized based on their behavior while others may receive benefits based on their connections.

The village’s court records indicate a different approach in dealing with certain tickets: Case summaries contain interesting observations from village employees and police officers. Tickets of rude drivers may be written with the amount as well as a note stating, “Do not fix,” sending a message that attitude plays into whether a ticket can be dismissed. There were twelve court records containing comments to this effect.

One driver was issued a ticket for driving 71 mph in a 50 zone. The phone number was refused, and the driver was perceived as disrespectful and unhelpful. The resulting fine was $305.

At, we understand how stressful it can be to receive a speeding ticket, especially when the mayor is the judge. But we have the expertise and knowledge to help you navigate through this challenging situation. Contact us today, and put our speeding ticket lawyers serving Fenton to work for you.



[1] Zurik, S. S. S. (2023, November 22). This Louisiana Village Brought in $1 Million Through a Court Where the Mayor Is the Judge. ProPublica.

[2] Sunne, S. (2023, November 16). This Louisiana town runs largely on traffic fines, and the mayor is your judge. Louisiana Illuminator.