Judge Postpones Hearing In Ongoing New Orleans Jail Dispute

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A civil district judge has postponed a hearing over a dispute involving the construction of a new jail in New Orleans.

         Judge Kern Reese postponed Wednesday's hearing until July 16. That's when Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman's legal team and city attorneys are due to square off again over a temporary restraining order preventing the city from stopping construction at the new prison.

         Court spokesman Walt Pierce tells NOLA.com/The Times Picayune’s Richard Rainey that both sides have filed new motions and the lawyers involved have asked for more time to review them.

         City officials have sought to stop construction on the new facility, saying the building lacks plans for securely housing inmates with medical and mental health needs.

         The ongoing dispute over the jail erupted again after Gusman on Monday refused to attend Tuesday's special meeting of the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee. He called its timing "highly suspect," given it was held 24 hours before the initially scheduled hearing in Reese' courtroom. He accused the council and Mayor Mitch Landrieu of trying to influence Reese.

         Councilwoman Susan Guidry, the committee chairwoman, dismissed Gusman's accusations Tuesday, pointing out he had a week's notice before the meeting and that U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, who is overseeing reform measures at the jail, had asked the council to be more involved in the construction project.

         Gusman has pushed for construction of a third building, one that could house as many as 750 beds for sick inmates of those with mental health problems. That plan could cost anywhere between $56 million and $85 million.

         Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the council are firmly behind a plan to retrofit the fourth floor of the prison complex's second building to house those inmates with special needs. That project is estimated to cost just shy of $7 million.

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