- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana’s Supreme Court has refused to reconsider its October dismissal of a lawsuit over the firing of thousands of New Orleans public school employees after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

The lawsuit could have resulted in damages being paid to more than 7,000 fired school employees, with estimated possible costs to the state and the New Orleans school board of over $1 billion. But the high court dismissed the suit in a 5-2 decision.

The court denied a re-hearing on Monday. There was no written opinion issued. The court record said Chief Justice Bernette Johnson and Justice Jefferson Hughes, the dissenters in the October decision, would have granted a rehearing.

In its Oct. 31 ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the fired employees’ due process rights were violated. Justice Jeffrey Victory noted the widespread destruction that followed levee failures during the 2005 storm and said due process rights were not violated in a situation where jobs were unavailable.

The ruling also said the issues brought up in the employees’ suit had been dealt with in a settlement of separate lawsuits bought by the New Orleans teachers’ union and therefore barred from consideration.

The workers had requested a rehearing on a variety of grounds. Among them, the contention that education officials from the state and New Orleans wrongly claimed there was no money available to bring back workers. The workers say post-Katrina federal emergency funds totaling nearly $500 million should have been used for that purpose.

The employees also contended that the statutory rights violated by the firings are not part of the union collective bargaining process, and that neither the union nor the school board intended to settle the employees’ lawsuit by settling the separate union case.

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