New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan violated civil rights law by firing dozens of white employees after taking office in 2003 and must pay more than $3.5 million in damages, says a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. A few days after after becoming the city’s first black district attorney, Jordan fired dozens of longtime employees, including clerks, typists, investigators and other support staff, to make room for loyalists and others campaign workers.
A 5th Circuit panel said the jury had enough evidence to determine that race was a motivating factor in firing the 43 people who later sued him. Forty-two were white and one was Hispanic. Unless Jordan persuades the 5th Circuit to review the case yet again, or becomes one of the rare cases that the U.S. Supreme Court picks up in its limited scope of purely constitutional issues, the multimillion-dollar bill comes due in about three months. Jordan must request the money from the state legislature or the City Council. Within 72 days of taking office, Jordan’s staff changed from 77 whites and 56 blacks to 27 whites and 130 blacks. The point was to staff his office with those who supported him, Jordan said, and most happened to be African-American.