Beleaguered New Orleans Dist. Atty. Eddie J. Jordan Jr. announced his resignation Tuesday amid growing speculation of a state takeover of his office.
Jordan, who will leave office today, could no longer delay paying off a $3.7-million judgment in a civil rights discrimination lawsuit won by his former employees. It is possible that the assets of the district attorney's office will be seized to cover the judgment; the city has said it will not cover the payment.
"I'm resigning not because I'm a quitter," Jordan said at a news conference at City Hall, "but because I honestly think that this painful act will help prevent further disruption of the district attorney's office, the criminal justice system and our city's fight against crime."
For many, the resignation of Jordan, 55, was no surprise.
"The district attorney's office is in a shambles," said Dane S. Ciolino, a professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans. "This really is an opportunity for the city to build an efficient, competent prosecutor's office."
Criticism of Jordan began shortly after his 2002 election, when he fired 43 white investigators and staff members and replaced them with blacks. In 2005, the fired workers won a racial discrimination suit, and Jordan lost his subsequent appeals.
Though Jordan said he hoped his resignation would end the threat of seizure of the district attorney's office, some legal experts say it remained a possibility.
Jordan's initial firings, critics said, had implications beyond the civil lawsuit: It meant his office, stripped of experienced staffers, could not keep up with its caseload.
"We've watched that office face a lot of challenges, and we've watched its inability to overcome those challenges," said Jim Letten, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Louisiana.
As New Orleans crime increased -- the city has had 178 murders already this year, compared with 162 last year -- the office had difficulty in maintaining a dynamic relationship with the New Orleans Police Department, as well as locating witnesses in important cases, Letten said.
Earlier this year, criticism of Jordan became particularly charged after he dropped charges against defendants in two high-profile cases: the slayings of five teenagers and the killing of a local musician.
Then, earlier this month, Jordan's embarrassment was compounded by news reports that he had inadvertently allowed an armed robbery suspect to briefly take shelter in his house. The suspect was a family friend of Jordan's girlfriend.
Jordan said he did not realize that the man was a criminal suspect.
First Assistant Dist. Atty. Keva Landrum-Johnson, 34, will serve as acting district attorney for the remainder of Jordan's six-year term.