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PRESS RELEASE
 NOPSEJUSTICE CLASS ACTION LEGAL COMMITTEE


CONTACT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Attorney Willie M. Zanders, Sr. January 16, 2014
Office: (504) 247-9761
Cell: (504) 258-7312
Email: wzanderssr@yahoo.com
[Download Press Release]

Louisiana Court Of Appeal Issues Class Action Ruling In Favor of New Orleans Public School Employees Fired After Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans, LA

January 15, 2014, a 5-judge panel of the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal,
rendered a decision in favor of approximately 7,000 public school employees who were
wrongfully terminated when the State of Louisiana took control of 107 New Orleans public
schools after Hurricane Katrina. In a unanimous decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal
ruled that the former employees “were deprived of their constitutionally protected property right to be recalled to employment without due process of law. This violation of due process was committed by the OPSB in failing to adhere to its policies in implementing the reduction in force and by the State through the Louisiana Department of Education by failing to follow the mandates of Act 35.”

In large part, the Court of Appeal affirmed District Court Judge Ethel Simms-Julien’s June
20, 2012 Judgment that the Orleans Parish School Board and State of Louisiana violated
constitutionally protected property/due process rights of 7,000 public school employees after
Hurricane Katrina. However, the Court reversed the District Court’s ruling regarding several
claims, and ordered the District Court to make certain deductions related to the plaintiffs’ lost
wages.

The Class Action applies to all employees who were tenured on August 29, 2005,
including principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, central office administrators, secretaries, social workers and other employees who provided instructional, administrative, food services, security, maintenance, transportation and other services.

Statement from Willie M. Zanders, Sr., Class Members’ Lead Counsel:

“We are both humbled and grateful that a unanimous, 5-judge panel of the 4th Circuit
Court of Appeals upheld key rulings in the June 20, 2012 judgment rendered by
District Court Judge Ethel Simms-Julien. This is a true victory for our clients.

This case has been a difficult and extremely stressful experience for 7,000 employees
and their families who suffered after Hurricane Katrina. We pause to pay respect to all
former employees who did not live to see this important victory, like Class
Representative Gwendolyn Ridgley who passed in October 2012. Other Class
Representatives and thousands of employees continue to suffer physically,
emotionally, and financially. I am thankful for the patience and prayers of former
School Board employees and their families, and encourage them to STAY STRONG !

Attorneys representing Class Members include Willie M. Zanders, Sr. (Lead Counsel),
Suzette Peychaud Bagneris (Liaison Counsel), Rico Alvendia, Anthony Irpino, Juana Marine
Lombard, Clarence Roby, Larry Samuel, Walter I. Willard, Mark P. Glago, Jeanne Demerest,
and Jeremy Pichon. Ms. Eveleyn Battiste serves as Manager of Client Relations.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

New Orleans, Louisiana  

November 12, 2009 5:00 pm 

 Media Contact:    Willie M. Zanders , Lead Counsel

                           Suzette P. Bagneris, Liaison Counsel 

Louisiana Court of Appeal affirms class-action lawsuit on behalf of New Orleans Public School employees fired after Katrina

           On December 10, 2008, Civil District Court Judge Ethel Simms-Julien certified a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 8,500 public school employees terminated after the State of Louisiana took control of over 100 New Orleans Public Schools after Hurricane Katrina. In a 20-page ruling issued today, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the trial court.  The 3-judge panel was composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Terri F. Love, and Judge Paul A. Bonin.  Speaking for the Court, Judge Lombard summarized the court’s ruling:

            “After reviewing the record before us, including the petitions, the arguments of the parties, the testimony at the certification hearing and the trial court’s reasons for judgment, we find that there was a sufficient factual basis for the trial court to certify this class.” 

          This case began on October 28, 2005, just two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast when three employees filed a Petition for Injunctive Relief to prevent the Orleans Parish School Board from terminating their employment, claiming a violation of their state-mandated due process and property rights as certified and/or permanent public school employees. The initial plaintiffs included Eddy Oliver, a public school principal, Oscarlene Nixon, a para-professional/teacher’s aide, and Mildred Goodwin, a custodian. The lawsuit was amended to include the State of Louisiana following the State's takeover of over 100 New Orleans Public Schools effective November 30, 2005. Other "State Defendants" include the Louisiana State Department of Education and its Recovery School District, and the Louisiana State Board of Secondary and Elementary Education (BESE). The employees' initial request for injunctive relief in the form of continued employment with the new state-run school system was denied, but in a September 2007 ruling, Judge Julien recognized other “causes of action” for monetary relief, including wrongful termination and breach of contract. Subsequently, other terminated employees were added to the lawsuit which now  includes principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, central office administrators, secretaries, social workers and other employees who provided instructional, administrative, food services , security, maintenance, transportation and other services.

Statement from Willie M. Zanders, Plaintiffs’ Lead Counsel: 

We are very pleased with the 4th Circuit’s ruling affirming Judge Julien’s decision certifying the class. This ruling means that 8500 former New Orleans public school employees who were wrongfully terminated  by the actions of the local school board and State of Louisiana, will be able to proceed with their claims together (in one lawsuit) ---- instead of having to file thousands of individual lawsuits.   

I thank Attorney Suzette Bagneris (Liaison Counsel) and Attorney Anthony Irpino who did an excellent job arguing the Plaintiffs’ case before the Fourth Circuit on September 30, 2009. I must also thank Attorneys Walter Willard, Roderick Alvendia, Juana Marine Lombard, Clarence Roby, Larry Samuel, and Client Relations’ Manager Evelyn Battiste for the outstanding work they have done and will continue to do until the case ends.   

In the course of the litigation, we discovered documents showing that State Education officials received over $400 million dollars in emergency congressional funding to restart public schools in New Orleans and to help employees who had been placed on “disaster leave” without pay.   Despite receipt of the federal funding, 8,500 New Orleans Public School employees were terminated. Many of these employees and their families are still suffering four years after Hurricane Katrina. However, they have been very patient as the court system reviews actions taken by education officials after Katrina.

The defendants have the right to ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to    review this unanimous ruling of the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal and the Plaintiffs’ attorneys will be prepared for that undertaking, if they choose to do so.  Thanksgiving 2009 is very special for our clients, their families, and citizens who are thankful for the invaluable services of public school employees.     


RELEASED 12/10/08

Louisiana court authorizes a class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of New Orleans Public School employees terminated after Hurricane Katrina

NEW ORLEANS, LA 

December 10, 2008

Civil District Court Judge Ethel Simms-Julien issued a Judgment today that potentially impacts over 8,500 former employees of the Orleans Parish School Board. The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, central office administrators, secretaries, social workers, and other employees who provided instructional, administrative, food, security, maintenance, transportation and other services for 62,000 public school students as of August 29, 2005     

In an 18 page Ruling, Judge Julien certified a lawsuit to proceed as a class action on behalf of thousands of employees of the Orleans Parish School Board terminated after Hurricane Katrina.  The ruling will potentially allow over 8,500 former Orleans Parish School Board employees to seek monetary damages from the Orleans Parish School Board, the State of Louisiana, and its education agencies for claims of wrongful termination and breach of contract. Today’s class certification ruling is a part of the legal process to recover damages for all eligible former employees.

This case began on October 28, 2005 when several employees filed a Petition for Injunctive Relief to prevent the Orleans Parish School Board from terminating their employment claiming a violation of their state-mandated due process and property rights as certified and/or permanent public school employees. The lawsuit was amended to include the State of Louisiana following the State’s takeover of over 100 New Orleans Public Schools effective November 30, 2005. Other “State Defendants” include the Louisiana State Department Education and its Recovery School District, and the Louisiana State Board of Secondary and Elementary Education.  The employees’ initial request for injunctive relief in the form of continued employment with the new state-run school system was denied, but in a September 2007 ruling, Judge Julien recognized other “causes of action” for monetary relief including wrongful termination and breach of contract.

In the course of the litigation, attorneys for the plaintiffs discovered a letter showing that on September 14, 2005, just two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education requested over $2 billion dollars in emergency federal aid to pay out of work employees and to restart public schools devastated by the storm.  State Education officials subsequently received over $445 million dollars in emergency congressional funding to restart public schools.  Despite receipt of the federal funding, 8,500 New Orleans Public School employees were terminated.

The attorneys representing the OPSB’s terminated employees are Willie M. Zanders, Sr. Larry Samuel, Suzette Bagneris, Roderick Alvendia, Anthony D. Irpino, Juana Marine Lombard, Clarence Roby, and Walter I. Willard. Evelyn Battiste serves as Manager of Client Relations.

“While this has been and will continue to be a long, hard-fought battle, we are taking a moment to be thankful for this very important victory on behalf of the patient and remarkable clients that we serve,” says Willie M. Zanders, Sr., Lead Counsel.

 A website site has been established at www.nopsejustice.com to provide further information.  

   

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New Orleans, Louisiana 70156-6068
mail@nopsejustice.com

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