Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman late last week moved to have the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) removed from an ongoing federal class-action lawsuit that was supposed to have resulted in a consent decree requiring improved conditions at Orleans Parish Prison. And today, City Hall asked that New Orleans government not be required to agree to budget increases to fund a consent decree.
In September, the DOJ intervened in the lawsuit, filed last spring by the Southern Poverty Law Center, indicating that a consent decree was in the works. Neither Gusman nor SPLC initially protested to the move. Then last month, Gusman then asked that the city be included as a third-party defendant and thus be required to commit funding, and Judge Lance Africk ordered the parties to produce a draft agreement by Oct. 15. But negotiations broke down when Gusman claimed he needed nearly $40 million to make the improvements he believed would be required. In order to resolve the dispute, Africk appointed retired state Judge Terry Alarcon as a special master to mediate.
Attorneys representing Gusman and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office in the suit were not immediately available for comment.
(More after the jump)
On Friday Gusman asked the federal government to be removed as a party to the dispute, denying allegations that the conditions in the jail are unconstitutional, asserting that "any action taken by him was done in good faith and with probable cause, without malice and under laws believed to be constitutional" and that the government's claims, "if any, were caused or contributed to by other persons or parties over whom this defendant in intervention exercises no authority jurisdiction or control."
Today, city government filed an answer to Gusman's third-party complaint, claiming that whatever constitutional constitutional abuses exist in the jail, if in fact that is the case, "such conditions are not caused by any lack of funding by the City."
The city contends that it is obligated under a previous consent decree to fund the Sheriff's Office based on a rate per inmate per day. It has and (apparently) intends to continue doing exactly that.
The filing continues:
"The City specifically denies that it is obligated to pay any additional amounts to the Sheriff or that any additional funding is required to operate the jail effectively and properly. The City submits that it has been and is currently providing adequate funding to operate the jail."
Read Gusman's filing: Gusmananswer.pdf
Read the city's filing: CityAnswer.pdf