Attorneys hoping to revive a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of public school workers who were fired after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 released copies of their latest briefs Monday for the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2012, a state district court ruled in favor of teachers who said they were wrongfully fired after the hurricane hit New Orleans and entitled to damages — a ruling that a lawyer for education officials said could cost the state and the New Orleans school board more than $1 billion.
An appellate court largely upheld that ruling. But Louisiana’s Supreme Court rejected the suit late last year.
Employees’ attorneys filed briefs Monday to counter state and school board arguments that the firings were legal and that the ruling from the state’s highest court should stand.
Attorneys led by Willie Zanders Sr., of New Orleans, argue that the more than 7,000 fired employees had a 14th Amendment right to due process, and that the School Board violated state law and its own policy by failing to compile a recall list of fired employees who would be put back to work as schools re-opened.
“Despite Hurricane Katrina and perhaps because of America’s worst natural disaster, there was no constitutionally acceptable reason to deny Petitioners their 14th Amendment due process rights,” the employees’ latest brief said.
Louisiana’s Supreme Court in October sided with attorneys for the state and the school board, saying due process rights were not violated at a time when a major hurricane and accompanying levee failures shut down the city.