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Eddie Jordan, the first African-American district attorney of New Orleans, started his tenure with a bang: He fired 56 nonlegal employees eight days after he took office in 2003. Of those fired, 53 were white, two were Hispanic and one was black. There had been 136 employees in the office’s support staff, 77 white and 56 black, working under Harry Connick, the previous, long-time New Orleans DA. Earlier this year, Jordan lost a civil suit accusing him of employment discrimination. Decorte v. Eddie Jordan, No. 031239 (E.D. La. 2005). Jordan recently filed a motion to have the decision thrown out, and said that if the motion is not successful, he will appeal. “Race was not a consideration,” Jordan said of the firings. “Why should I be barred from bringing in a person that happens to be black because the person before happened to be white?” The plaintiffs, 43 white former employees of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, won a jury verdict for $1.9 million in lost wages and other damages on March 30 against Jordan in his official capacity. The final amount, the judge decided, added up to around $2.9 million, not including attorney fees, according to Clement Donelon, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs and a solo practitioner in Metairie, La. Despite Jordan’s recent motion to dismiss, Donelon was confident that the verdict would be upheld. “I think the judgment will be maintained,” said Donelon. “There may be some changes, pluses or minuses on the numbers, but I’m confident that it’ll be maintained.” ONE IN A MILLION According to the statistician who testified for them in the trial, the likelihood of 53 out of 77 white, and two out of 56 black, employees getting fired by chance had a probability smaller than one in a million. Yet Jordan, who was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana from 1994 to 2001, said that when he was elected DA, he wanted to bring in a new staff that he was familiar with through prior work at the U.S. Attorney’s office or on the campaign trail. “My position was that [race] was not a factor,” Jordan said. “And furthermore, that district attorneys have the prerogative of hiring and firing as they see fit, bringing in their own team members.” “In the trial there [were] a number of factors that were set forth, including cost savings, and to bring in persons that I was familiar with,” Jordan continued. “The fact that they were white … that was of no concern to me.” To defend his actions, Jordan hired the New York-based consulting firm Linder and Associates Inc. to conduct an audit of his office to compare it with that of the previous administration. According to Jordan, his administration is outperforming the last. Jordan’s attorney, G. Phillip Shuler III, a partner at Chaffe McCall in New Orleans, did not return calls seeking comment on the case.

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