This past Monday and Tuesday the case of The Rosedale Baptist Church vs C. Ray Nagin was heard in federal court in front of the Honorable Judge Martin Feldman.
The 6 person jury, oddly none of which reside in Orleans Parish heard 2 days of testimony about the post Gustav demolition of the Rosedale Baptist Church in New Orleans East. At the time the City was working overtime to demolish a number of structures post Gustav, it was revealed in Court that the funds for these demolitions were more readily available Post Gustav than they had been Post Katrina and Ed Blakely, former recovery Czar was coordinating efforts to ensure these demolitions would take place swiftly. The demolition contract, awarded to Metro Durr on this building was over 58,000.00. Clearly someone had an incentive to see this building demolished, a building which had been gutted the week before Gustav after a lengthly legal battle with the Insurance company.
The task at hand was to determine if the building was in fact in Imminent Danger of Collapse and if so who made that decision and how was that determination made.
In opening the Judge said that this was “a simple straightforward and important case because it involved the constitution” and the lawyer for the plantiffs, Henry Klein laid out a case which stated that the civil rights of the members of the Church were denied because they had not been offered due process. No notifications nor attempts to notify were made on the part of the City.
The city failed to fulfill it’s obligation to present a clear, complete and legible inspection report. Pages missing and incomplete forms as well as unsigned documents were presented.
After day 1 it was clear that the city had little ground to stand on and the best they could do was mitigate whatever damage had been done. One of the church members told me after Mondays court session the City called with an offer of $100,000.00, the Church refused and court was again in session today.
Franz Ziblich attorney for the City seemed to be suggesting that the demolition was a windfall for the plantiff’s and that they stood to gain by the unwanted City mandated demolition. In a grabbing at straws final argument Ziblich presented a confusing mathamatical equation which no one seemed to buy.
Jury was out for an hour..the verdict..The City of New Orleans violated the constitutional rights of the Church members and Rosedale Baptist Church was awarded $300,00.00 in damages.