Original Plaintiffs & Class Representatives

        

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New Orleans Public Schools Employees Justice
(www.nopsejustice.com)

KATRINA 10” MESSAGES TO CLASS MEMBERS
(We are still standing----August 29, 2005 to August 29, 2015)

Click below for a short video about people and politics behind the immoral, illegal and unAmerican takeover of New Orleans Public Schools November 30, 2005------ while citizens were under a mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Katrina.

Click below for a "not so short" video of Lead Counsel’s 2013 “Words of Inspiration” to 7500 Class Members

  

 
New Orleans Public School Employees Will Request a Congressional Hearing on the $750 Million Federal Fund to Restart Schools after Hurricane Katrina

We suggest that an oversight or investigative Congressional hearing is warranted to review the use of $750 million in federal funds to “Restart School Operations” after Hurricane Katrina. Obtaining information from witnesses will be beneficial to various Congressional committees regarding the intended and actual use of federal funds after a natural disaster.  

We propose that the initial review focus on the State of Louisiana, which was awarded $445.6 million in Restart funds, and the State of Mississippi, which was awarded $222.5 million. In New Orleans, Louisiana (only) 7500 state-certified public school employees were terminated based on a claim of “no jobs and no money.” However, “the Bay St. Louis-Waveland school district in southwest Mississippi, some of the $13 million it has received in restart money [paid] for the salaries of school psychologists, behavior specialists, and social workers to counsel staff members and students” here

The fair and equal opportunity for citizens to receive authorized federal assistance after a natural disaster is clearly a non-partisan objective.  

The following preliminary information is offered in support of a formal request for a Congressional Hearing to be made on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.   

Louisiana’s urgent request for federal funds                                                                                         

In a September 14, 2005 letter, Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education, Cecil Picard, told the U.S. Secretary of Education:

The damaged school systems not only have damaged physical property, but loss of students, staff, local revenue and basic state aid. The damaged districts are very concerned, not only with securing educational services for the students while the districts are closed, but in providing some type of compensation for their staffs during the period the districts are closed, but in providing some type of compensation for their staffs during the period the districts are closed.  In talking with Florida Department of Education about last year’s hurricane issues, we learned that they continued to pay their staffs and requested that the staff either help rebuild the schools, work in a shelter or perform other community work, or deal with their emergency family situations while their home schools were closed. This was done for several reasons, but mainly to assist in retaining staff for when the schools reopened.  Of course, they still lost a large percentage of staff members who found other jobs and/or moved away.

In Louisiana, our situation is much more drastic. Several school systems are only able to make one more payroll. After that, their employees will be on unemployment or will need to find other work. These employees are very concerned with their livelihood, health insurance coverage, and just being able to cover basic needs.  The districts are very concerned not only for their employees, but with other fiscal obligations that may force the districts into financial default, which they will not be able to overcome for many, many years.

  See Mr. Picard’s entire letter here.  

On December 30, 2005, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings informed Louisiana and other states affected by Hurricane Katrina that Congress had appropriated $650 million for Displaced Students and $750 million for “Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations. See the letter here

Millions spent on out-of-state consultants

However, Members of Congress should know that Louisiana did not use the emergency federal funds to help “employees who were concerned about their livelihood.” In April 2006 a financial consulting firm from New York was given a 3-year $29.1 million contract to “…develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated disaster recovery plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (See page 20 of Board Minutes here).  A Texas company was paid $20 million for “school security” (see the news story here). Louisiana’s State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a “Recruitment Incentive Package” for out-of-state teacher and other personnel “moving to New Orleans to work at any school in the Recovery School District” using federal “Restart” money as follows:  $2500 relocation allowance, $400/month housing allowance (one year only), $5,000/year signing bonus (for two years). Total Package-$17,300. Seethe Official Board Minutes---April 19, 2007 (See the April 19, 2007 Official Board Minutes, page 11 here).

    A Trial Court noted the intended use of the federal funds:

    Notwithstanding the State Defendants’ representation to the U.S. Department of Education that it needed over “$700 million to pay salaries and benefits of out-of-work school employees, and the State Defendants’ receipt of over $500 million dollars in post-Katrina federal “Restart Funds” based upon this representation, the State Defendants did not ensure that any of this money was used to pay the salaries or benefits of the Plaintiff Class. Rather, the State Defendants diverted these funds to the RSD [Recovery School District—emphasis added].  See Trial Court’s Findings of Fact # 84 here.

Politics and the firing of 7500 school employees 

What is the true story behind the mass firing of 7500 state-certified and tenured public school employees---including thousands of tenured and non-tenured, union and non-union employees?

At the end of the 2004-2005 school year, eighty-eight (88) of the more than 120 public schools in Orleans Parish had met or exceeded the state’s requirement for adequate yearly progress. These schools were not failing. Ninety-three (93) of the schools showed academic growth. The Orleans Parish School Board was making documented progress in raising failing school scores in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind legislation prior to Hurricane Katrina. Thus, as of the 2005-06 school year, the OPSB was working towards meeting the State’s growth target. See Trial Court’s Findings of Fact #’s 47-53 here.

Prayers and politics were at the top of the agenda for the first Orleans Parish School Board meeting held September 15, 2005 at the State Department of Education in Baton Rouge. Members prayed for those who suffered loss of life and property. However, immediately after the public comment period, Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education tried unsuccessfully to have a New York financial consultant replace the Acting Superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools (See Board Minutes here). A week later, the local School Board President wrote an on-line “S.O.S.” letter complaining about a possible school takeover: “Even after the meeting was over, Mr. Picard persisted with the issue telling me yesterday that he has already spoken with the Governor about an Executive Order, presumably to initiate a takeover of the schools should we not agree to giving Mr. Roberti the position of Superintendent.” See the entire online letter by scrolling down to September 22nd here.

The State Superintendent of Education was determined to prove his point. A special session of the state legislature passed La. Revised Statute 17: 10.7, raising an acceptable School Performance Score (SPS) from 60 to 87.5, thus resulting in the November 30, 2005 state-takeover of 102 of 126 New Orleans public schools. “Consequently, while a score of 60 was “passing” as of August 29, 2005, it was “failing” as of November 30, 2005, the effective date of the State takeover of OPSB Schools. The SPS that designated a school as “passing” reverted to 60 in 2010.” See a short video entitled “The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schoolshere.

    It must also be noted that public schools in St. Tammany Parish, which borders New Orleans, also sustained substantial damage, but state education officials were “very supportive” in reopening schools there---working with FEMA to obtain trailers and some schools operated out of portable classrooms” In stark contrast, the state controlled financial consultants from New York ignored a similar plan suggested by the New Orleans Superintendent of Schools (he wanted to replace). See Trial Court’s Findings of Fact # 89 here.

    On December 9, 2005, the local school board approved a resolution to terminate all employees who placed on a unilateral “Disaster Leave Without Pay,” which is a classification that isn’t recognized in Louisiana law. The resolution was drafted by New York financial consultants working under 2-year $16.8 million contract paid for by the local school board, but controlled by the State Superintendent of Education. Subsequently, 7500 New Orleans public school employees were fired via a standard form letter to pre-Katrina addresses (teachers, principals, counselors, service and transportation workers, librarians, etc.) All employees were fired except those “hand-picked” to work at 18 newly formed charter schools promoted by state and federal officials. There was no opportunity to appeal or to be “recalled” as schools reopened. See Trial Court’s Findings of Fact #19m and #61-73 here.

Congressional action is both necessary and proper

After nine (9) years of complex court victories, Louisiana’s highest court dismissed the employees’ case----overruling decisions of the local appellate courts in favor of the employees. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the employees’ wrongful termination case. The judicial branch has spoken, but our nation has two more branches to ensure justice in a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

     This dispute is no longer about legal rights, but the obligation of a state or any federal grant recipient to use the funds as directed by Congress.  And yes, there should be consequences for misuse. To the extent that some of the funds were not used as mandated, Louisiana should be compelled to repay those funds as has been the case with the misuse of other federal grants: Feds demand Nebraska repay $22 million for botched child welfare reform; Maryland misspent $28M of ObamaCare grants; and Baltimore set to repay $4 million in misspent homeless funds. In a December 23, 2014 announcement about the Eastern District of Pennsylvania collecting $2.3 billion in civil and criminal actions in FY 2014, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger stated, “Our nation’s taxpayers deserve our most aggressive efforts to recover their hard-earned tax dollars that have been misappropriated.”

     The tenthAnniversary of Katrina would be an ideal time for Members of Congress to reassure American citizens, especially New Orleans public school employees, that misspending taxpayers’ hard-earned tax dollars will not be tolerated. These employees were the intended beneficiaries of federal “Restart” funds and legislation can ensure that they become beneficiaries of misspent funds repaid by the state of Louisiana. After a 10-year fight for due process and property rights, we continue this struggle because justice has no deadline.

Willie M. Zanders, Sr.,
Lead Counsel  


NOPSEJUSTICE.com

This is the website that contains up-to-date information concerning the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 7,500 tenured employees who were fired after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The lawsuit went to trial in May of 2012. After hearing 17 days of testimony, and after reviewing hundreds of documents, the Honorable Ethel Simms Julien, Judge, Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, ruled in favor of the fired tenured employees. A five-Judge panel of the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal then unanimously ruled in favor of the fired tenured employees. The Supreme Court of Louisiana then reversed these rulings and ruled against the employees. We have filed a Petition in the Supreme Court of the United States, asking the highest court in our country to review the ruling.

Posted May 18, 2015

Today, the United States Supreme Court refused to review the Supreme Court of Louisana's October 31, 2014 decision to dismiss our lawsuit.

The following is an excerpt of a summary of all pleadings filed and actions taken by the United States Supreme Court:

March 6, 2015: Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed.

April 9, 2015: Brief of resppondents Louisiana et al in opposotion filed.

April 9, 2015: Brief of respondent Orleans Parish School Board in opposition filed.

April 20, 2015: Reply of petitioners Eddie Oliver at el filed

April 28, 2015: Distributed for Conference as of May 14, 2015

May 18, 2015: Petition Denied.

After the above was posted by the Court today, our Lead Counsel issued a Press Statement which is posted under "Press Releases" on this website. As Attorney Zanders said in his statement, we have exhausted our legal options at the local, state and national level, but he has not ruled out asking for a congressional hearing on Louisiana's use of $500 million in federal funds after requesting money for out-of-work employees.

Any noteworthy development regarding a congressional inquiry will be posted on this website or a new website dedicated to that cause.

Our entire legal team joins Mr. Zanders in thanking each and every class member for their patience and cooperation. Additional information may be posted on this website in the near future.

Posted April 1, 2015, Revised April 2, 2015 and May 5, 2015

This case has been the subject of great interest not only in the local media but around the country. Here are some links to a few of the articles that may be of interest (updated May 5, 2015) (click each link):

"School workers filed after Katrina file U.S. Supreme Court briefs" (Education Week)

"Laid-Off Katrina Teachers appeal to U.S. Supreme Court" (NOLA.com)

"7500 Fired teachers take their case to U.S. Supreme Court" (Louisiana Weekly)

"Fired New Orleans school workers go to US Supreme Court" (Washington Times)

Former OPPS employees may get their day at the U.S. Supreme Court" (Data News Weekly)

Here are links to the Judgments and Decisions in the case: (Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view .PDF files. Download it free here)

Click here for the Trial Court's Judgment (Honorable Ethel Simms Julien, Judge,  June, 2012)

Click here for the Trial Court's Reasons for Judgment (Honorable Ethel Simms Julien, Judge, June 2012)

Click here for the ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal (January 15, 2014)

Click here for the ruling of the Louisiana Supreme Court (October 31, 2014)

Click here for Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson's dissenting Opinion (October 31, 2014)

Click here for our Petition for Writ of Certiorari that we filed with the United States Supreme Court.

Click here for our Reply Petition that we filed with the United States Supreme Court

Here are some very significant documents that give additional background information on this case. These were among hundreds of documents introduced into evidence at trial:

Click here for the letter dated September 14, 2005 from Cecil Picard (who was State Superintendent of Education in 2005) to Margaret Spellings, who was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education in 2005.

Click here for the minutes of the meeting of the Orleans Parish School Board on September 15, 2005.

For additional details on this case, please go to: "Current Status and Developments"  and "Frequently Asked Questions"       on this website.             


Posted November 2, 2014

Personal  Reflections on a Sunday Morning from Lead Counsel

On this website just two days ago, we announced that Louisiana’s highest court had ruled against our 7,500 clients terminated after Hurricane Katrina. It was Halloween on a Friday (“Black Friday”).  But at 6:52 a.m. this morning, I received some encouraging words from one of our Class Representatives or “Lead Plaintiffs” and I am compelled to share them with everyone. She wrote:

“I am of the humble opinion that no weapon formed against “US” shall prosper and in the end the victory shall be “OURS”…  With much love & respect for the entire dream team that continues to represent us.”

Another Class Representative had encouraging words: “We’re in it to win it…”. But she was also thinking of others: “Please pray for our youth and the city of New Orleans.”  I was reminded by another lead plaintiffs that “The race doesn’t go to the swiftest, but to the ones who endure.”

So, from “Black Friday” to this bright and blessed Sunday morning, I thank our dedicated, bold, and courageous lead plaintiffs. On this Sunday, I pray for the attorneys who have sacrificed so very much in this fight for justice. It is because of our clients, attorneys and God’s grace that I am inspired by a song I heard this morning: Please click: Bishop Marvin Winans sings "I Feel Like Going On."

                                                                                     Willie M. Zanders, Sr.

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…. From Members of the Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee  

(Left to right) Juana Lombard, Clarence Roby, Anthony Irpino, Willie Zanders, Suzette Bagneris, Jeremy Pichon, Mark Glago.  Not in picture: Larry Samuel, Walter Willard, Rico Alvendia & Evelyn Battiste (Client Relations Manager)
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Posted October 18, 2012

IT IS WITH DEEP SORROW AND PAIN that we announce the death of Ms. Gwendolyn Ann Ridgley, one of seven “Lead Plaintiffs” in our class action lawsuit who was “called home” Tuesday night, October 16, 2012. We pray for her mother, Dorothy Ridgley and other relatives and friends.

Gwen will be missed. She was a wonderful lady.

All of us will miss Gwen’s professionalism, untiring work ethic, and contagious smile. In the words of  Class Rep. Cynthia Jordan:  “As we grieve for her and her family, we can take comfort  in knowing that the word of God says, “Absent from the body is present with the Lord.”  Minister Brenda Square who attended most of the class action trial commented: “ I am thanking God for Gwendolyn Ridgley who stepped up to represent others with grace, dignity and determination.   May God comfort her family, you and your team, as you experience His presence, guidance and wisdom during this difficult time.  Gwen's testimony will be recorded in the history books.”

Gwen has gone to a better place so as we challenge the appeal, we will also fight in court for primary and excess insurance policies which might cover the judgment rendered in this case! Gwen’s death and the death of other class members will not weaken our resolve. To the contrary, our strength has been renewed in the fight for justice for New Orleans Public School Employees.  ---NOPSEJUSTICE !   

NEW POST JULY 13, 2012...Please see "Current Status and Developments" and "Frequently Asked Questions."

On June 20, 2012, Judge Ethel Simms Julien ruled favor of the tenured employees who were terminated following Katrina.

Please click here to review the Judgment. 

Please click here to review the "Reasons for Judgment."
(Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view .PDF files.  Download it free here)

These are public documents and may be distributed to anyone.

POSTED JUNE 21, 2012

On June 20, 2012, the Honorable Ethel Simms Julien, trial court judge, ruled that the termination of over 6,800 tenured OPSB employees violated law.

We are very pleased with this development. No doubt, this is a huge milestone in what has been a long and difficult journey for hard-working and loyal school board employees who suffered great hardship because of the illegal and unjust termination after Hurricane Katrina.

We know that there will be many questions. We have tried to anticipate a few:

The Judgment states how much money that the seven class members will receive. What about everyone else? How much will everyone else receive?

In a Class Action lawsuit, the Court selects a few class members to serve as “class representatives.” These persons actively participate in each stage of the litigation acting in the best interest of the rest of the class. At trial, the class representatives testify, along with other witnesses, in the hopes of obtaining a judgment on the issue of class-wide liability (in other words, who is liable for the wrongs that were committed). They also prosecute their individual damages claims.

The class representatives in this lawsuit were successful in obtaining a class-wide judgment on the issue of liability. This means that the rest of the class members do not have to bear the burden or the expense of conducting individual trials to prove who was at fault for the wrongful termination of the class. Liability has already been established for the benefit of all class members. 

However, the Court must determine the amount of money that each person is entitled to receive on an individual basis.  This means that each class member must prove how much money he/she is entitled to receive as a monetary damages award. At a later date, the Judge will establish a procedure for determining the individual damages awards due to each of the class members. We will have more information later.

The question that will be on everyone's mind: When will we receive our money? 

The answer: More likely than not, the losing parties will exercise their right to appeal the judgment issued by Judge Julien to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal and the Louisiana Supreme Court. There is no way for us to project how long it will take for the judgment to become final after all appeals have been exhausted. As a result, it could be a very long time before anyone, including the class representatives, receives money.

Why will it take a long time?

First, because the party or parties that are not satisfied with the Judge’s ruling have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal.  The Judgment is not final until all appeals have been completed.

Second, the Court will need to determine how much money each individual class member is entitled to receive. The amount of money must be determined on an individual basis for all class members. The Court will develop a process for the handling of a series of mini-trials to address the issue of damages.

What does an appeal involve?

The party or parties who are dissatisfied with the Judge's ruling may first ask the Judge for a new trial. This would involve filing a Motion stating why a new trial should be granted. Then, the party or parties may file a Motion for Appeal, asking the Court of Appeal to rule that Judge Julien's decision was wrong. This will involve additional memoranda of law and an oral argument before a panel of judges on the Court of Appeal. After that, the party or parties who are not satisfied have the right to ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the ruling from the Court of Appeal. This process takes a considerable amount of time. The Judgment is not "final" until all appeals have been concluded.

Why didn’t the seven named class representatives receive the same amount of money?

The Court considered many factors in determining fair monetary awards to each class representative. Some of the factors included consideration of the testimony of each class representative, the tax returns of each class representative, the fringe benefits of each class representative, the financial losses proven by each class representative, and the emotional distress experienced by each class representative.

Why didn't this case settle?

The parties could never reach an agreement, but we remain open to good faith settlement discussions.

How will class members know if the case is going to settle later. 

In a class action, the Judge would first approve a proposed settlement and then require a Notice to be sent to all class members. Class members would then have the opportunity to comment.

Do I need to take any action at this time?

We recommend that everyone gather all information that substantiates how much money you lost because of the termination.

Do I need to hire an attorney to represent me?

No. The Court has appointed several attorneys to represent the interest of the entire class.

What do I do with that information after I compile it?

Keep it in a safe place, for now. We will provide further direction as soon as the court develops the process.

What if I lost all my information and don't have anything?

We will be providing information later.

What if I have already provided that information to you?

Then you are one step ahead!

Why did the case take so long?

Class action lawsuits usually take longer than other cases and this case involved some new and complex legal issues.  There were no prior cases when all employees in a public school system were fired at one time.   

At the end of the case, how are we going to collect the money?

This is an issue that the Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee is considering and we will have more information in the future.

Is it too late for class members to submit information?

No. There is no deadline at the present time. However, we encourage everyone to provide us with information.

One of the media reports stated that the case was settled. Was the case settled? 

No. That media report was incorrect. The case was not settled.

We know that there will be many more questions. Please feel free to send them to us through the "Contact Us" link on this website. We hope you understand if we don't respond to everyone very quickly. We will try to post the general questions and answers as soon as we can. Needless to say, we will be "rolling up our sleeves" to respond to whatever the other side files.

Two final comments: First, PLEASE BE CAUTIOUS OF RUMORS. There is no limit to what you may hear "on the street." Also, media reports may not always be entirely accurate.  So PLEASE if you hear anything that isn't on this website, send us an email asking whether the information is true. We will try to respond to rumors as quickly as we possibly can. As a general guideline: if it isn't on the website, it probably isn't true!

Second, there is no way that we can cover all of the questions. So if we haven’t covered something, please feel free to send your question to us. We will respond and/or post the response as quickly as we can.

We recommend that everyone continue to regularly check this website.

POSTED JUNE 20, 2012

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We have great news!  

 
Judge Ethel Simms Julien ruled today in favor of the tenured employees who were terminated following Katrina. Please click here to review the Judgment. 
 
We know that there will be many questions. We will post more information not later than close of business Friday, June 22.
 

(Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view .PDF files.  Download it free here)

POSTED MAY 14, 2012

We have many emails asking whether there are any developments. There are no developments at this time. When we receive the Judgment, we will immediately post it on this website.

POSTED MARCH 5, 2012

The trial has ended and the attorneys for all sides have filed post-trial submissions. The next step is for the Judge to issue a decision.

We know that there will be rumors as to when the ruling will be issued. However, there is no timetable. There may also be rumors as to what the Judge ruled. PLEASE check this website to verify any information that you hear. We will post new developments as they occur. If information isn't on the website, then it probably isn't true.

 

Posted February 17, 2012

We have two updates to report today.

Insurance Money:

We want to again make it clear that there is no insurance money that is about to be distributed to class members.

Background: OPSB is still seeking approximately $200 million from its insurers for various damages which it sustained relative to Hurricane Katrina.  To date, OPSB has received at least $25 million from its insurers for Katrina damages (and the OPSB and the State of Louisiana are trying to divide these proceeds between them).  We are attempting to make claims for the remaining money so that it can go to our class members.  There is still no court ruling. We are continuing our efforts.

As a result of our filings in court, the Judge issued a stay order on all insurance matters. The new development is that yesterday (February 16, 2012), the Judge extended this stay order through March 2, 2012, pending hearings that will take place in early March. We urge everyone to regularly check this website for updates and information.

Deadline to submit post-trial submissions in the Oliver case:

 

The Plaintiffs and the Orleans Parish School Board have requested two additional weeks to file post-trial submissions. The Judge has granted the request.

 

As a result of the extension, the deadline for the lawyers in the case to file post-trial submissions is March 2, 2012.

 

The Judge will issue her decision after the post-trial submissions are filed. This does not mean that the decision will be made on March 2, 2012. There is no timetable.

 

We urge everyone to regularly check this website for updates and information. And…as we have been saying all along…if you hear any rumors PLEASE verify the information on the website. If it isn’t on the website, it probably isn’t accurate.

 

UPDATE POSTED JANUARY 25, 2012

 

The Court has completed the written transcript of the testimony of all persons who testified at trial.

 

The Judge has given the attorneys a deadline – February 17, 2012 – to file the final post-trial positions.

 

Following that, the Judge will issue her ruling. There is no timetable.

 

We urge everyone to regularly check this website for updates and information. And…as we have been saying all along…if you hear any rumors, PLEASE verify the information on the website. If it isn’t on the website, it probably isn’t accurate.

UPDATE POSTED JANUARY 6, 2012

There has been some confusion surrounding the issue of OPSB’s insurance coverage for its Katrina losses. We hope this website post clears some of that confusion.

First, we want to make it clear that there is no insurance money that is about to be distributed to class members.

The OPSB has been and is still seeking approximately $200 million dollars from its insurers for various damages which it sustained relative to Hurricane Katrina.  To date, the OPSB has received approximately $25 million from its insurers for Katrina damages (and the OPSB and the State of Louisiana are trying to divide these proceeds between them).  We are attempting to make claims for this money so that it can go to our class members.  However, there is no court ruling as of now, and at this time there are no proceeds for class members.  We will continue in our efforts.

It is important to understand that the OPSB’s insurers strongly dispute that the OPSB has coverage for, or is entitled to, any of the remaining $200 million.  In essence, the OPSB’s insurers claim that they owe NOTHING to the OPSB.  Thus, THERE IS CURRENTLY NO MONEY GOING TO THE OPSB OTHER THAN SOME PORTION OF THE $25 MILLION.  Moreover, there is a strong likelihood that the OPSB’s insurers will continue to maintain this position unless and until a Court or a Jury determines otherwise.  The trial relative to the OPSB’s Katrina insurance claims will not occur until the fall of 2012, at the earliest time. 

As previously posted, we have brought a “Petition for Intervention” in the OPSB’s lawsuit against its insurance companies.  We did this in order to make claims for actual and potential insurance proceeds which the OPSB has received and/or may receive in the future from its insurance companies relative to the OPSB’s Katrina claims. This could include Business Interruption insurance and seven (7) months of unpaid payroll, from August of 2005 until March 24, 2006. 

The OPSB filed several different “exceptions” or procedural objections in response to our “Petition for Intervention” claiming, among other things, that we have no right and no claim to intervene in the OPSB’s case against its insurance companies.  Recently, in December of 2011, the Judge in OPSB’s Katrina insurance case ruled on these “exceptions.”  In summary, the Judge ruled that we do have the right and have stated a proper claim to intervene in the OPSB’s Katrina insurance case.  However, the Judge also ruled that our current case (Oliver, et al. v. OPSB, et al.), which is before Judge Julien, should cover our claims to these actual/potential OPSB Katrina insurance proceeds.  As such, we were not allowed to intervene in the OPSB’s Katrina insurance case at this time, but the Judge stated he may reconsider our intervention claim after a judgment is rendered in the Oliver case.  We have filed the motion to have these two cases consolidated and we will hopefully have a decision in the near future.

To be clear, ALL THIS MEANS IS THAT WE MAY HAVE THE RIGHT TO BRING THE INTERVENTION IN OUR CURRENT CASE (Oliver, et al. v. OPSB, et al.) OR AT A FUTURE DATE IN THE OPSB’s KATRINA INSURANCE CASE.  IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE ARE ENTITLED TO ANY OF THE INSURANCE PROCEEDS WHICH THE OPSB HAS RECEIVED OR WHICH IT MAY RECEIVE.  THAT DETERMINATION WOULD COME AT FUTURE TIME. 

We will of course continue to post new developments on this website as they occur. We urge everyone to regularly check the website.

UPDATE POSTED DECEMBER 5, 2011

Ever since our lawsuit was filed, the Orleans Parish School Board has claimed that it didn’t have the financial ability to pay salaries or benefits to employees after Hurricane Katrina. However, the Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee has now learned that in August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, the Orleans Parish School Board had several insurance policies.  Several of these insurance policies provided coverage for property damage and “business interruption.”

Typically, business interruption insurance policies provide employers with compensation to cover payment of salary due to employees.

 The Orleans Parish School Board failed to disclose to us and to the Court that it had these business interruption insurance policies.

Moreover, we have learned that OPSB never made a claim for employee salaries in these insurance policies.

The Orleans Parish School Board has filed suit against several of these insurance companies (many of you may have read about their lawsuit in the Times-Picayune) seeking money for among other things, property damage and business interruption.

We contend that at the least, these policies cover your salary from August 26, 2005 (the date when everyone was last paid) until March 24, 2006, when everyone in the class action was formally terminated in writing by the OPSB). As a result, we have filed a “Petition to Intervene” in OPSB’s lawsuit against their insurance companies, asking the Court to declare that your claims for salary are covered by OPSB’s business interruption insurance policies, and asking the Court not to allow the insurance companies to distribute the insurance money to anyone else until your claims for unpaid salary are considered.

If we are successful, it could mean that there would possibly be insurance money to cover salary from August 29, 2005 through March 24, 2006. 

Having said that, we anticipate that there will now be rumors that “we have settled the case” or that “everyone will receive salary from August 29, 2005 through March 24, 2006. So we want to be perfectly clear:

 · We are asking the court to rule that the business interruption insurance must cover this claim for salary. We have not yet received a ruling.

· We have not settled the case.  This new information has nothing to do with any settlement, and if you hear any rumors about settlement, they are untrue. Moreover, because this is a class action, the case cannot be “settled” until we send Notice of a Proposed Settlement to the class, and class members have the opportunity to comment.

 · We are still pursuing damages beginning with August 29, 2005, with no end date. All this email states is that at a minimum, we contend that the insurance policies should cover the time period August 29, 2005 through March 24, 2006.

Update on transcript: The Court has told attorneys for all parties that post-trial filings are due three weeks after the transcript has been completed. The transcript has not yet been completed.

Update Posted November 16, 2011

We know that everyone is eagerly awaiting word of the Judgment of the trial court. However, a Judgment cannot be rendered until the transcript of the written testimony has been completed and attorneys for the parties submit post-trial pleadings. Because this was a one-month trial, we expect the written transcript to be between 5,000 and 6,000 pages long. We are awaiting a “date certain” for the transcript to be completed.  

In anticipation of the completed transcript, the Judge has already given attorneys a deadline of three (3) weeks to submit post-trial pleadings after we receive the full transcript. The Judge will render Judgment after attorneys file post-trial pleadings.

We thank you for your patience.  Please know that we continue to vigorously fight the injustice and to do everything that we can to minimize delays. In the meanwhile, the Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee extends our best wishes to everyone for a Happy Thanksgiving.

Update Posted September 14, 2011

The Times-Picayune recently reported that every class member will have the opportunity to show the court what individual losses and damages we have suffered. Is this true?

Yes. In class actions, if there is judgment in favor of the class members, and after the judgment becomes final, then individual class members will have that opportunity. The procedure will be determined by the Judge much later, after the Judgment is final (that is, after all appeals have been concluded)

There are nearly 7,000 class members. Won’t the process of appeal, and then the  process of establishing damages, take a considerable period of time?

Yes.

How much time?

That cannot be determined at this time.

 Additional note:

First, we ask class members not to give any statements to the media (radio, television, newspapers, weeklies, etc.) This is because comments that you make can be taken out of context and can hurt not only your claim, but others’ claims. If you are contacted by reporters, we ask you to tell reporters that you will only comment with a class action attorney present. Then, send us an email.

Second, we have received emails from class members who have told us that they “heard a rumor that…” We thank you for calling rumors to our attention. (we haven’t heard one rumor yet that was true!) We ask class members to check the website before repeating information to someone else, or send us an email asking if the rumor is true. Thank you!

 

Update Posted August 9, 2011

We have received numerous requests for an update. We haven’t posted anything lately because there haven’t been any new developments.

What is the current status of the case?

We have filed a Motion asking the Court to establish deadlines for attorneys for both sides to file post-trial memoranda of law. However, before post-trial briefs can be filed, a transcript of the testimony from court must be prepared. Because it was a 17-day trial, the transcript will be very lengthy. We estimate that this will occur before the end of September.

We estimate that post-trial briefs will be due in late Fall.

When will there be a decision?

After the transcript has been prepared and after post-trial briefs have been filed, the Judge will issue a ruling. Because of the necessary delays associated with filing post-trial briefs, we do not expect a ruling until late 2011 or early 2012.

Because of the financial problems of the State and the School Board, will there be a problem receiving money at the end of the case?

There are strategies that will be instituted if necessary.

How long after we get a ruling from the trial court would receive our money?

We do not have an answer to this question…but remember…the losing party has the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal, and after that, ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the ruling from the Court of Appeal.

Is there a deadline to return our packets?

No. There is still no deadline for class members to return completed packets to us.

Update

Posted Friday, June 24, 2011

On June 23, 2011, the trial phase of the case concluded, except for the submission of a deposition (as explained below) and post-trial briefs. We are extremely pleased with the information that was presented to the Judge, and we feel strongly that the evidence and testimony supports our case.

We know that many people have questions as to what happens next. We are in the process of preparing information to post on this website hopefully by the end of June. For now, we will answer a few questions that are on everyone’s mind:

What happens next?

1.    {C}{C} One of our educational experts has been out of the country and unavailable to testify during trial. He will be returning to the country in July, and we have reserved the right to submit his testimony through a deposition. The date for the deposition has not been scheduled.

2.    {C}{C} The Court Reporter will prepare the written transcript of all of the testimony.

3.    {C}{C} Attorneys for both sides will have the opportunity to submit written briefs. The Judge will establish deadlines for all counsel to file memoranda of law.

We will post information on this website when these events occur.

When will the Judge issue her decision?

It is not likely that the written transcript and the briefs will be completed before the end of August. There is no way at this time to know when the Judge will issue her ruling. 

Is there a deadline for class members to submit information?

Not at this time.

We recommend that everyone regularly check the website for updates and to verify information that you may hear. If it isn't on the website, it isn't accurate.

 

POSTED THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2011

We have now completed three weeks of trial. In addition to the persons named below, we have presented the testimony of Dr. Barbara Ferguson (education expert) and an economic expert, Dr. Shael Wolfson. Each of the named class representatives have completed their testimony as well.

On Monday, June 20, the State Defendants and the Orleans Parish School Board will begin presenting their case. We expect trial to end on Thursday, June 23. However, there will not be an immediate ruling from the Court, because there is a second educational expert who has been out of the country. This final piece of information will presented to the Judge in late July. We do not know at this time whether a ruling will be issued this summer, but we will post developments on the website.

There is still no deadline for class members to submit information to us.

POSTED SATURDAY, JUNE 4, 2011

Two weeks of trial have been completed. Thus far, the following persons have testified: former OPSB Compliance Officer Dr. James Lloyd, former NOPS Superintendent Ora Watson, OPSB Member Cynthia Cade, NOPS Superintendent Darryl Kilbert, former First Assistant Legislative Auditor Grover Austin, Managing Director of Alvarez & Marsal Bill Roberti, former Louisiana Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Carole Wallin, NOPS Chief Financial Officer Stan Smith, current NOPS Director of Human Resources Armand Devezin, OPSB Board member Lourdes Moran, former OPSB Board President Phyllis Landrieu, former Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot, and BESE Board Member Linda Johnson.

Next to Testify (not necessarily in this order): education and economic experts, the named class representatives, plus a few others.

Trial resumes at 9:00 Monday morning, June 6. Trial will continue on Tuesday, June 7 and Wednesday, June 8, and then on Monday, June 20.

There is no deadline at this time to submit information to the Lawyers' Committee. This phase of the trial is for the purpose of determining fault and liability.

We encourage everyone to check this website on a regular basis.

POSTED WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2011 

7:00 PM

Following is the schedule of persons who will be testifying for the remainder of this week. Note: both the names and the order are subject to change:

Thursday, June 2:

      Steve Theriot, former Legislative Auditor

      Rev. Torin Sanders, former President, Orleans Parish School Board

      Phyllis Landrieu, former President and member, Orleans Parish School Board

Friday, June 3:

      Glenny Lee Buquet, BESE Board member

      Weegie Peabody, former BESE Executive Director

 

 

UPDATE

Posted Friday, May 27, 2011

 

Week one of testimony went very well. We are pleased with the evidence and testimony, and persons who have attended the trial have told us that it was time well spent.

 

We have been asked to post a list of witnesses to be called each day. Here is the list of witnesses currently scheduled to be called Tuesday, May 31 and Wednesday, June 1.  Please keep in mind that both the names and the order are subject to change:

 

Tuesday, May 31 and Wednesday, June 1:

 

 · Grover C. Austin, former First Assistant Legislative Auditor

 · Carole Wallin, Former Deputy Superintendent of Education          under Superintendent Cecil Picard

 · Phyllis Landrieu, former member of the Orleans Parish School Board

 · Lourdes Moran, member of the Orleans Parish School Board

 · Reverend Torin Sanders, former member of the Orleans Parish School Board (continuation of testimony)

 

We have received requests to provide a summary of developments each day. However, it is the opinion of the Lawyers’ Committee that this would not be a good strategy while trial is underway. However, there are some public posts that contain information posted by others. For example, click the following link for a recent article written by Jessica Williams in "The Lens": http://thelensnola.org/2011/05/26/opsb-rsd-mass-firings-katrina/

 

WEDNESDAY MAY 25, 2011

TRIAL IS UNDERWAY!

 

Trial has begun, and significant information has become public each day.

 

Location: Civil District Court, 321 Loyola Avenue corner Poydras (adjacent to City Hall), 3rd Floor, Division "N"

 

The following is the current trial schedule. It is subject to change, so please check this website daily before you attend.

 

Monday, May 23                       1:00 p.m.

Tuesday, May 24                      9:00 a.m.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011      9:00 a.m.

Thursday, May 25, 2011          9:00 a.m.

Friday, May 26   NO TRIAL/OTHER CASES SCHEDULED

 

Monday, May 30   COURT CLOSED; MEMORIAL DAY

Tuesday, May 31                      9:00 a.m.

Wednesday, June 1                  9:00 a.m.

Thursday, June 2                      9:00 a.m.

Friday, June 3                           9:00 a.m.

 

Monday, June 6                        9:00 a.m.

Tuesday, June 7                       9:00 a.m.

Wednesday, June 8                  9:00 a.m.

 

THURSDAY, JUNE THROUGH FRIDAY, JUNE 17             

NO TRIAL/SCHEDULING CONFLICTS

 

Monday, June 20                      9:00 a.m.

Tuesday, June 21                     9:00 a.m.

Wednesday, June 22                9:00 a.m.

Thursday, June 23                    9:00 a.m.

 

BULLETIN!

Trial Begins Monday, May 23 at 1:00 p.m. (new time)

Location: Civil District Court, 421 Loyola Avenue, corner Poydras St. (the 4-story building adjacent to City Hall) Division “N” is on the 3rd floor.

Trial is expected to be held on the following dates (subject to change):

               May 23, 24, 25, 26, 31

               June 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 20, 21, 22, 23

Court will convene at 9:00 a.m. on each day except May 23 (subject to change).

THE STATE AND THE SCHOOL BOARD TRIED TO DELAY THE TRIAL BUT THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT REFUSED.

The School Board and the State Defendants tried to delay the trial – again. After being denied by Judge Ethel Simms Julien and a Three-Judge Panel of the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, the State and the School Board asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to delay the trial. We strongly objected because justice delayed is justice denied, and we felt that waiting 5 ½ years is long enough.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has denied their request to delay the trial.

 

An important message from the Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee

Posted April 28, 2011.

 Trial will begin on Monday, May 23, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. in Division “N” (3rd floor) of Civil District Court, 421 Loyola Avenue corner Poydras Street, which is the building next to City Hall. The trial is public, of course.

In early April, the School Board and the State Defendants filed a Motion to Stay the trial, in order to delay the trial date. We vigorously opposed their Motion, and the trial court Judge (Ethel Simms Julien) denied their request. OPSB and the State Defendants then asked the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal to delay the trial. We again opposed their efforts, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal refused to grant their request for a delay. Justice delayed is justice denied, and we felt that a six year wait was already too long.

The case will begin with our side calling persons to testify first. This is a Judge-trial; there is no jury. Trial is expected to take between 4 – 6 weeks, so it is not expected to finish until mid-July. At this time, trial is scheduled to begin at 9:00 each morning, except on Fridays, when the Judge schedules hearings on other cases, but schedules are always subject to change. There will be no trial between June 6-10 because of a conflict with the annual meeting of the Louisiana State Bar Association, which a large number of Judges and attorneys attend. We urge everyone to check the website to determine changes in the trial schedule, but sometimes there may be schedule changes without notice.

 We do not expect the Judge to immediately issue a ruling when trial concludes. It is likely that both sides will submit post-hearing briefs.

 It is important for everyone to know that hearings to determine how much money each person will receive will take place at a later date which has not been determined. The first phase, which begins May 23 and should conclude by mid-July, is for the purpose of proving that the State, BESE and OPSB are at fault.

 At this time there are no deadlines for class members to submit information, but we encourage everyone to regularly check this website.

 We will try to post updates on this website during the trial as time permits.

 We continue to be honored to serve as your Plaintiffs Legal Committee.

Willie M. Zanders, Sr. Lead Counsel
Suzette Peychaud Bagneris, Liaison Counsel
Rico Alvendia
Jeanne Demarest
Anthony Irpino
Juana Marine Lombard
Clarence Roby
Larry Samuel
Walter Willard
 

 

IMPORTANT NOTICE !!!

REGARDING “NOTICE OF CLASS ACTION

LITIGATION !!!

Tenured/Permanent New Orleans Public School employees who were terminated or forced to retire after Hurricane Katrina should have recently received an envelope in the mail.

The envelope contains a notice of Class Action Litigation.

Opt-Out Form
(Submit only if you DON'T want to be included in the class action) (Click to download)

Please note:

Because the Court has certified this case as a class action, you are automatically included if you do nothing. 

The form that you will receive in the envelope is an “OPT-OUT” form. You should return the form only if you want to be excluded from the lawsuit.

If you want to be INCLUDED in the lawsuit, you should NOT return the opt-out form.

If you opt-out, you will not be able to recover any money from this class action and you will not be represented by the eight (8) attorneys appointed by the Court.

If you do not receive an envelope in the mail, the “Notice of Class Litigation” and "OPT-OUT" form have been posted on this website (see the above links).

Because the Court has certified this case as a class action, you are automatically included if you do nothing.

► If you did not receive a Notice in the mail, you may obtain one by clicking the above link.


New Orleans Public Schools Employees Justice
(www.nopsejustice.com)

We have established this website in order to provide information to New Orleans Public School employees who were terminated after Hurricane Katrina.

Over 8,500 permanent and tenured highly qualified and dedicated public school employees - including school principals, certified teachers, counselors, social workers, secretaries, para-educators, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and central office personnel – lost their jobs.

These employees are now fighting back.  A lawsuit was filed in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, against the Orleans Parish School Board and various State Defendants (the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, State Department of Education and the Recovery School District). The purpose of the lawsuit: to challenge the unlawful termination of these dedicated tenured employees whose employment rights were ignored and violated.

We are honored to serve as the interim committee of attorneys representing former NOPS employees in this historic lawsuit. The plaintiff's interim legal committee is comprised of the following attorneys:

  • Willie M. Zanders, Sr. (Lead Attorney)

  • Suzette Peychaud-Bagneris (Liaison Counsel)

  • Rico Alvendia

  • Anthony Irpino

  • Juana Marine-Lombard

  • Clarence Roby

  • Larry Samuel

  • Walter I. Willard

***


  

NOPSE JUSTICE
P.O. Box 56068
New Orleans, Louisiana 70156-6068
mail@nopsejustice.com

© NOPSE JUSTICE. All rights reserved.