New Orleans DA Loses Race-Firing Appeal

Alan Sayre, AP, August 15, 2007

The New Orleans district attorney lost his fight Wednesday against a ruling that said he violated the civil rights of dozens of white employees when he fired them after taking office in 2003 and replaced them with black workers.

Orleans Parish prosecutor Eddie Jordan claimed he filled key positions with political supporters and did not discriminate based on race when he took over from longtime District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. in 2003; he fired 53 of 77 employees.

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A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict that, with interest, means Jordan’s office owes the ex-workers and their attorneys about $3.5 million.

In addition to rejecting all points of Jordan’s appeal, the panel also ordered U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. to set attorney fees to cover the appeal for the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs attorney Clement Donelon estimated that would add another $80,000 to $100,000 to the judgment.

All of the fired employees, with the exception of one who was Hispanic, were white. The jury found that 43 had been the victims of racial discrimination by Jordan, who is black, and awarded damages to 35 of them, Donelon said.

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