A federal jury said Wednesday that Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, the first African-American to be elected the city’s chief prosecutor, discriminated against 43 white employees when he fired them in 2003.
Jurors awarded the plaintiffs about $1.9 million in back pay and other damages, a figure equal to about 20 percent of Jordan’s annual budget of $10 million. Jordan said his office could not afford such a payment and that he would appeal the verdict.
“I wasn’t making racial decisions,” Jordan said after the verdict, repeating as he did on the witness stand that he did not know who held the positions when he arrived.
Jordan started down the road to his courtroom defeat eight days after taking office. As a first step toward building his staff, Jordan fired 53 of 77 white workers who were not lawyers—investigators, clerks and child-support enforcement workers—and replaced almost all of them with black employees.
Jordan in court reacted to the verdict with the easy confidence and composure he showed from the start of his political career in 2002 when he officially announced his candidacy for district attorney.
But the federal case continued a downward spiral in Jordan’s once-shimmering career, landing a storied prosecutor in the last place anyone expected to find him: at the defense table.