The failure of Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan to pay up in a racial discrimination case could bankrupt the prosecutor’s office in this crime-plagued city, after a federal appeals judge found Monday that its $3.5 million in assets could be seized to meet the debt.
Lawyers representing dozens of white office workers who successfully sued Jordan for replacing them with black workers said they would use leverage from the finding to force New Orleans officials to include a payoff in the next city budget. The workers are owed $3.65 million in damages stemming from the 2005 case. The city’s budget is due on Nov. 1.
“The decision that’s going to have to be made by responsible people in the city is whether they want a D.A.’s office,” said Clement P. Donelon, who represents the 35 former workers.
Donelon said he did not fear community backlash if he took money from the coffers of the office, which already suffers from a low prosecution rate and bungled homicide cases. New Orleans has the highest murder rate in the country.
“It’s not us shutting it down. It’s the city shutting it down,” Donelon said, urging the mayor and city council to take action to compensate his clients.