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NEW ORLEANS A Washington, D.C.-based company backed by the U.S. Department of Justice is a federal judge's choice to monitor the overhaul of the New Orleans Police Department through a consent decree.

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, and Hampton is the Washington, D.C.-based company that had the backing of the Department of Justice. On Friday, District Judge Susie Morgan selected the firm as her choice to monitor the department.

The contract is worth up to $7 million. The firm will be responsible for enforcing the consent decree, which is estimated to cost $55 million over five years.

Friday's decision followed weeks of stalled negotiations between the feds and the city of New Orleans, who were unable to agree on who should monitor the NOPD.

A selection committee had narrowed it down to two finalists. Hillard Heintze, of Chicago, was the city's choice, as well as the less expensive option.

But Judge Morgan said that Sheppard Mullin's experience with previous consent decree orders gave the firm an edge.

'The head of the SheppardMullin team has experience with performing this kind of task, having served as Deputy Monitor of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., under a memorandum agreement with the United States.'

The judge said that the firm is better suited to handle the duties of the monitor: to review the policies the City and NOPD 'draw up to ensure that they comport with the requirements of the Consent Decree and constitutional policing.'

The judge also said that the 'streamlined nature of the Sheppard Mullin team will help ensure that each team member is intimately familiar with the Consent Decree.'

At a June meeting, the city proposed a compromise of a hybrid team comprised of Hillard Heintze and two principals from Sheppard Mullin.

The Department of Justice said that was not an acceptable option, because there is no information on how much that would cost or who would play which role in monitoring the consent decree.

Roy Austin, a DOJ attorney, said Sheppard Mullin is the best team because its lawyers have experience dealing with civil rights issues and consent decrees.

The city argued that Sheppard Mullin is too large a firm and too expensive.

City Attorney Sharonda Williams issued the following statement:

'We're hopeful Sheppard Mullin will study the reforms the City has put in place over the last three years and adjust their fees since they were the higher-priced proposal. Our intent is to continue to develop a fair and cost-effective deal for the taxpayers.'

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