NEW ORLEANS - In more blunt terms, attorneys for the City of New Orleans argued in court filings this week that the city should not be paying for additional reforms at Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s prison complex.
City attorneys claim in a court filing that Gusman doesn’t properly manage his funds, and that he failed to properly staff the jail and hire medical staff. The city argued that alleged unconstitutional conditions at the jail would be Gusman’s fault, and that the city should not be held liable.
Gusman and the city, along with the U.S. Justice Department and the Southern Poverty Law Center, remain locked in a legal battle over a consent decree concerning Gusman’s office and his prison complex.
The groups recently agreed to a lengthy slate of jail reforms, but are deadlocked on funding issues. Gusman wants nearly $40 million in interim funding from the city, a request that Mayor Mitch Landrieu called absurd.
Meanwhile, a “special master,” or outside consultant, has been appointed to analyze the financial issues and report back to the federal judge overseeing the case.
The city currently pays the sheriff a per diem on each inmate, under a decades-old consent decree. The city also pays millions in medical expenses and services.
In a court filing late last week, attorneys for Gusman denied many of the allegations of constitutional abuses at the jail.
Gusman and the state of his jail facilities have been under scrutiny for years. The SPLC filed its federal civil rights lawsuit in April and the Justice Department joined the case against Gusman months later. The case is likely to serve as a vehicle for an eventual consent decree.
The groups are scheduled to meet in court later this month for a status conference.