District Attorney Eddie Jordan has called it quits, citing a $3.7 million discrimination verdict against his office as the reason for his decision to resign at the close of business Wednesday.
"This is all about the district attorney's office and what is in the best interest of the office," Jordan said at a news conference Tuesday announcing his resignation. "And the lawsuit is what really made it difficult for us to go forward."
The discrimination lawsuit filed by dozens of his former employees and the subsequent judgment against his office highlight numerous problems he faced. Many of them increased after Hurricane Katrina.
The storm flooded the courthouse and Jordan's offices, paralyzing the criminal justice system for months. As the city's number of homicides spiraled this year — reaching 179 on Tuesday, compared with 162 all last year — pressure on Jordan grew.
Jordan, who is black, has repeatedly lost appeals in the 2005 case of 35 white former employees who said they were fired because of their race. This week, a federal judge refused to delay payment of the judgment, opening the door to the possible seizure of assets of his office.
"I'm hoping my departure will end the threat of the seizure of the district attorney's office's assets," Jordan said Tuesday.
Richard Leefe, an attorney for the fired employees, said Jordan's resignation will not end the possibility.
"It sounds as if we are being used as an excuse, but it was never about him," Leefe said. "The judgment is against his office, and we still want to be paid."
Mayor Ray Nagin reiterated that the city would not pay the judgment, saying that it could not afford it and that it would set a bad precedent.
Criticism of Jordan became particularly heated this year after he dropped charges in two high-profile cases. One defendant was accused of killing five teenagers; the other was charged in the death of a popular local musician.
Both cases have since been revived, but shortly after the charges were dismissed, New Orleans City Council member Shelley Midura sent a letter asking Jordan to resign. "Recall Eddie Jordan" signs began appearing around the city, and some lawmakers talked of impeaching him.
Baty Landis, co-founder of the anti-violence group Silence is Violence, said Jordan's move was best for New Orleans.
"Mr. Jordan always struck me as an intelligent man, but for some reason he was unable to operate as the district attorney," Landis said. "This has got to be good for the office. The morale there has been so low. There has been so much criticism and a total lack of leadership. This is a new start for them."
Jordan, 55, previously was U.S. attorney in New Orleans. His office successfully prosecuted former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards on corruption charges stemming from the extortion of casino license applicants.
Jordan leaves with slightly more than a year remaining on his six-year term, which began in January 2003. Veteran prosecutor Keva Landrum-Johnson will step in temporarily but has agreed not to run for the office in a special election, Jordan said. The election must be called by the governor.