Wednesday, March 09, 2005

New Orleans D.A. target of race bias suit...

From the AP, by way of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

The New Orleans prosecutor who put ex-Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards behind bars finds the tables turned this week, as 44 ex-employees have hauled him into federal court on accusations of race bias.

As the U.S. Attorney here in the 1990s, Eddie Jordan had one of the highest profiles in the city: the man in the trademark homburg hat who successfully matched wits with Louisiana's gambling governor.

Now, as the local district attorney, he's the target of a federal lawsuit by whites who worked for his predecessor. They say he fired them for racial reasons, immediately after taking office in 2003, to replace them with blacks. Jordan kept 96 percent of the blacks, but only 32 percent of the whites.

In a racially divided city where power-sharing between blacks and whites is a work in progress, the suit puts in play one of the most volatile issues around. The target: a black man who jailed a white politician, Edwards, well-liked by Louisiana blacks.

Jordan is the first black district attorney in a city where blacks have slowly accumulated the top political jobs over the last quarter-century. The mayor is black, and so is the sheriff.

Appointed U.S. Attorney by President Clinton in 1994, Jordan is widely credited with helping orchestrate the surprise triumph over a flamboyant governor who dominated state politics for nearly three decades. During Edwards' 2000 trial, he called the ex-governor the "head of a criminal enterprise."

"This is not discrimination, this is a political effort to create diversity," his lawyer Philip Schuler told the jury of eight whites and two blacks. "This case is about politics, not about race discrimination."

In New Orleans, the workforce is overwhelmingly black, the lawyer noted - nearly 70 percent. Jordan merely wanted to "have a workforce more reflective of the community," he said. "If Eddie Jordan is racist, how is it that Eddie Jordan retained 57 white assistant district attorneys," Schuler asked. "These were his key positions."

Among the non-lawyers, the number of blacks nearly tripled, while whites in the office declined by about two-thirds.

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made a preliminary finding of race bias in the case.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Diane said...

"If Eddie Jordan is racist, how is it that Eddie Jordan retained 57 white assistant district attorneys," Schuler asked.

Why? Because you can't just take any John Q. Public off the street and put him/her into an attorney position. And I certainly doubt there are very many attorneys, black or white, who would jump at a chance to work at a starting salary of about $32k. Personally, I would like to see how many black attorneys have applied with the DA's office since Mr. Jordan took over, and how many of them were turned away.

1:58 PM  
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