U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk today granted a preliminary approval of the proposed consent decree for the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and Orleans Parish Prison.
The Plaintiffs, United States, and Sheriff have agreed that the revised proposed notice procedure is acceptable as to class members and the general public.3 After conducting its own review, the Court finds that the revised procedure is the best notice to class members that is reasonably practicable under the circumstances. The Court also finds that public notice is appropriate.
With the issue of funding still unresolved, it remains unclear what the preliminary approval will mean as far as implementation of the agreement is concerned.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as the Sheriff's Office were not immediately available for comment.
Update: "When we filed the motion for joint entry [of the consent decree], which the judge referenced in his order, the sheriff agreed to implement what he could immediately," says Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is representing the inmate plaintiffs in the lawsuit. She could not comment on what that might include.
Africk will not sign off on final approval until after a fairness hearing, now scheduled for April 1.
"We're focused on getting to April 1," Schwartzmann says.
A trial on funding for the decree, originally set for April, is now scheduled for late May. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said that the funding Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has requested — taken along with new expenses for the New Orleans Police Department consent decree — could bankrupt the city.
Read the order: OrderonOPP.pdf
Read about the consent decree here.