Judge orders list of class members in case against OPSB

Alejandro de los Rios Jul. 17, 2010, 3:00am


Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Julien ruled on a series of motions Friday ordering the compilation of a list of approximately 8,000 names of class members in a case against the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB).

New Orleans attorneys Willie Zanders, Suzette Bagneris, Clarence Roby, Anthony Irpino, Roderick Alvendia, Juana Lombard, Charles Samuel, and Walter Willard are representing the class of OPSB employees that were laid off or forced to retire following hurricane Katrina.

Julien approved Zanders' motion to send out short form notice, long form notice, opt-out form and manner of publication of notice/opt-out to all the members of the class. In a telephone interview, Zanders said that the class counsel is already representing 5,000 clients in the suit.

New Orleans attorneys William Aaron Jr. and Renee Smith are representing the OPSB.

The defense filed a joint opposition to the class' notice motion, saying the plaintiff's motion was defective in both its dissemination plan and its substance, claiming that the class counsel would only notify 5,000 of the possible 8,000 potential class members.

Julien denied a defense motion asking for production of a list of the class members already being represented.

Zanders filed a subpoena with the State of Louisiana to produce the names of about 1,000 OPSB employees not currently represented and the names were produced Friday in court. Zanders said his client list and the list produced by the State will be merged.

With the combined list of class members, Zanders said that plaintiff counsel will be able to send notice to close to 7,000 class members via direct letter. The remaining 1,000 class members will be notified through state-wide advertisements.

New Orleans principal Eddy Oliver, teacher's aide Oscarlene Nixon and OPSB custodian Mildred Goodwin lead the class of current and former OPSB employees who claim they were wrongfully terminated after most of New Orleans' public schools were turned over to the state-run Recovery School District following hurricane Katrina.

This case was originally filed as an injunctive relief for Oliver, Nixon and Goodwin, in which they claimed that the OPSB's proposed plan to turn several of its schools into quasi-charter schools would "end public schools in New Orleans."

The initial request, which essentially asked that teachers hired by the OPSB be retained in schools that were taken over by the RSD, was denied.

But in a September 2007 ruling, Julien acknowledged other causes of action including wrongful termination and breach of contract. In December 2008, Julien certified the class as "all current or former employees of the OPSB prior to Hurricane Katrina."

The class includes principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, central office administrators, secretaries, social works, food service, maintenance and other service workers that had been hired by the OPSB.

Julien's ruling was appealed to the Louisiana Fourth District Court of Appeals. In November 2009, Justices Edwin Lombard, Terri Love and Paul Bonin affirmed the class certification.

The case was appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which voted not to block the case on March 5.

A jury trial date of Jan. 11, 2011 has been set for this case.

Orleans Parish Case 2005-12244

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