New Orleans DA announces large-scale layoffs prompted by COVID-19 budget impacts
May 8, 2020
For Immediate Release

Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro announced the layoff of 42 percent of his non-attorney staff Friday (May 8), in response to budget shortfalls exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing court system shutdown.

Affected employees were notified late Thursday of furloughs taking effect at the close of business today. In total, 56 of the 133 non-attorney employees of the New Orleans DA’s office were laid off through at least Aug. 2. This group represents employees whose salaries are paid through the budget portion provided by the City of New Orleans.

The 60 attorneys on staff, whose salaries almost exclusively are paid by the State of Louisiana, were not affected by this round of furloughs. But overall, the cuts claimed 29 percent of the office’s 193-person workforce.

“We had no alternative but to take this drastic action in response to an estimated $700,000 shortfall to our budget,” Cannizzaro said. “All of those affected are hard-working public servants dedicated to our mission of bringing justice to crime victims, holding criminals accountable and improving public safety in our city. Our thoughts are with them and we certainly hope to have them back later this year, helping our citizens and providing for their families.”

The deficit that prompted the layoffs represents the amount of expected operating revenue lost because of a steep decline in court fines and fees, bail allocations, bond forfeitures, and property seizures.

Virtually all these variable revenue streams have dried up — as the City Council was warned they might at last November’s budget hearing — first because of shifting city policy regarding court fees, and later because of the near-complete shutdown of the criminal courts since mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot ignore this significant hole in our annual operating budget, so we have taken the only responsible, proactive course we could,” Cannizzaro said. “We have pleaded with the City for years that we are the most underfunded large DA’s office in the state. Now, we’re no longer large, though eventually our caseload will be again.

“We have stripped to our frame to survive during this shutdown. But we will be greatly diminished in providing critical services and won’t be able to run to its full extent our highly successful Diversion program without significant financial assistance later this year.”