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On Tuesday (May 10), attorneys for Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman officially challenged the request to place the Orleans Justice Center in receivership, filing a 22-page opposition in U.S. District Court.
Late last month a group of inmates were joined by the U.S. Justice Department to request that the sheriff’s authority over the jail be taken away from him, but Gusman says he intends to vigorously defend his office against the attempt to usurp his power as the elected sheriff.
The 22-page response from Gusman’s legal team to the memo filed by plaintiffs in the case begins with a sentence from this plaintiffs’ memo that reads “A receiver may not be able to operate Orleans Parish Jail at a cheaper daily cost than OPSO. But an independent entity—untethered from local politics and with the authority and goal of operating a constitutional jail without further unnecessary delay and foot-dragging—will conserve resources in the long run.”
That the quote gets to the heart of the “inappropriateness” of the request to place the jail in the hands of a receiver, according to the response.
“This dispute is motivated by a desire to usurp the will of the Orleans Parish voters by replacing the elected Sheriff…The plaintiffs want to select the Sheriff for Orleans Parish instead of the voters in Orleans Parish.”
As for the politics, Gusman and city officials have been entangled in a dispute over funding for the jail for years now, with Gusman saying he needs more money to recruit and retain well-trained deputies to operate the jail.
The City has said it has funded the jail operation at the requested level, but Gusman contends that city officials’ characterization of a fully-funded jail is not accurate because portions of the revenue are dedicated to debt service payments and other obligations not tied to jail operations.
An evidentiary hearing in the case is scheduled for May 25.