In a ruling issued Friday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan selected law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton as federal monitor for a consent decree dictating reforms for the New Orleans Police Department.

Morgan’s decision ends a months-long dispute between the U.S. Department of Justice, which preferred Sheppard Mullin’s proposal, and the city of New Orleans, which backed a competing proposal from Chicago consulting firm Hillard Heintze. Twelve firms originally applied for the job.

Sheppard Mullin’s bid was the more expensive of the two finalists, estimated at $7.9 million for four years and capped at $8.9 million. Hillard Heintze’s bid was capped at just over $7 million.

In her ruling, Morgan wrote that Sheppard Mullin’s team — led by attorney Jonathan Aronie, who served as deputy monitor for the police department in Washington, D.C. — was more experienced and better equipped to handle oversight of the consent decree than Hillard Heintze, headed by former Chicago Police Chief Terry Hillard.

In her ruling, Morgan essentially said the legal expertise is more important for the court monitor than police experience:

The Monitor is … primarily responsible for reviewing the policies that the City and NOPD draw up to ensure that they comport with the requirements of the Consent Decree and constitutional policing —precisely the kind of advisory role that lawyers are accustomed to playing.

Morgan also noted that the feds’ pick drew more support from the public during a series of bid evaluation meetings held between March and June.

The city was opposed to Sheppard Mullin in part because the firm hadn’t identified local partners in its proposal. Among the local partners in Hillard Heintze’s proposal was the Rev. Charles Southall, whom Sheppard Mullin backers said was an ally of Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado is the editor of The Lens. He previously worked as The Lens' government accountability reporter, covering local politics and criminal justice. Prior to joining The Lens, he worked for...