September 26, 2022

Louisiana judge overheard using racial slurs resigns from bench

After being heard on home surveillance video using racially derogatory language to describe an alleged burglar on her property, a judge in Louisiana has resigned from her position after accepting “full responsibility” for using “hurtful words,” as Fox News reports.

Now-former Lafayette City Court judge Michelle Odinet submitted a letter of resignation to Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John Weimer on Friday, acknowledging the ill-advised comments captured in a video that emerged online weeks ago and which prompted the filing of dozens of complaints with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission.

Video footage taken at Odinet’s home caught the ex-judge’s reaction to the sight of a Black man attempting to burglarize a vehicle parked on the property, which included her statement that “We have a ni**er, it’s a ni**er, like a roach,” according to the New York Post.

The outlet noted that the video at issue also captures one of Odinet’s children in the background exclaiming, “Mom’s yelling ni**er, ni**er,” seemingly authenticating the assertion that the then-judge did indeed use the racial slur as alleged.

Once the footage went public, Odinet claimed that she had no recollection of the video or the incendiary commentary within it because she had been given a sedative following what she described as “an armed burglary” at her home, which left her in a “fragile” mental state.

In her letter of resignation, Odinet declared, “I am sorry for the pain that I have caused my community and ask for your forgiveness, as my words did not foster the public’s confidence and integrity for the judiciary.”

Odinet added, “After much reflection and prayer, and in order to facilitate healing within the community, I hereby resign as judge of the Lafayette City Court effective immediately,” a move which Louisiana Gov. John Edwards had called for since the middle of December.

The impact of Odinet’s conduct might not end with her resignation, however, given that Michael Toussaint of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP has demanded a further probe of whether the outcomes in cases over which the former judge presided were marked by bias against people of color, as Fox News further noted.

Odinet’s attorney, Dane Ciolino, stated following the resignation, “She understood that many people in the community were horrified by what she had said, and realized that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to preside over cases, and not have her impartiality questioned. It was just the right thing to do.”

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