Louisiana Fired teachers' lawsuit closer to resolution After Katrina, thousands of teachers were dismissed

By Kevin McGill

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A milestone has been reached in a lawsuit that could determine whether thousands of New Orleans school employees are entitled to damages for the way they were fired after Hurricane Katrina.

Testimony from a trial that ended last June finally has been transcribed, filling more than 4,000 pages. Now, lawyers in the employees' lawsuit have until Feb. 17 to file final written arguments. It is unclear how soon after that date Civil District Court Judge Ethel Simms Julien will rule.

The trial began last May, more than five years after Katrina struck and levees failed, deluging the city just as the school year began. With the population scattered and schools in no shape to open, the Orleans Parish School Board dismissed more than 7,000 teachers and other employees.

The trial ended in June, but transcribing testimony and compiling volumes of documents entered as evidence has taken months.

Seven people are named as primary plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Once Judge Ethel Simms Julien rules -- sometime after mid-February -- they will learn whether the court believes they are entitled to damages for the way they were fired and how much they are entitled to, according to an attorney in the case.

But a decision will not mean the case is resolved.

Aside from the likelihood of lengthy appeals, the case has been certified as a class-action. So a decision in favor of the plaintiffs could mean up to 7,000 former school workers also would be entitled to damages.

Published: Tue, Feb 7, 2012