A Louisiana judge resigned Friday after a video surfaced of her using a racial slur while viewing security footage of a foiled burglary outside her home, her attorney said.
Lafayette Judge Michelle Odinet submitted her resignation to the Louisiana Supreme Court, saying she takes “full responsibility for hurtful words” heard in the video, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported.
“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,” Odinet wrote. “I am sending a copy of this letter to the Secretary of State and hope that a special election can be scheduled to fill the vacancy that my resignation creates.
“I take full responsibility for the hurtful words I used to describe the individual who burglarized the vehicles at my home. 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.”
The state Supreme Court ordered her disqualification and appointed retired Opelousas City Court Judge Vanessa Harris to fill her seat temporarily, CNN reported.
In the video, people off camera inside Odinet’s home can be heard using a racial slur repeatedly and laughing as they viewed security-camera footage of a person trying to break into a car on Dec. 11, The New York Times reported.
Odinet’s lawyer, Dane Ciolino, later confirmed that the judge had used a racial slur in the video, which did not show the faces of the people speaking, the newspaper reported.
“She understood that many people in the community were horrified by what she had said,” Ciolino told KATC-TV, “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.”
On Dec. 16, Odinet took unpaid leave, the Daily Advertiser reported. The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Odinet the same day.
Odinet, who was elected as a judge for Division A of Lafayette City Court in November 2020, told The Current that she was sedated when the clip was filmed and does not remember the racist language captured in the video.
“My children and I were the victim (sic) of an armed burglary at our home. The police were called and the assailant was arrested,” Odinet told the news organization in a statement. “The incident shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile. I was a wreck and am still unable to sleep. I was given a sedative at the time of the video. I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it. Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives. I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness and understanding as my family and I deal with the emotional aftermath of this armed burglary.
City judges serve six-year terms, the Times reported. Odinet was previously a prosecutor for the district attorney’s offices in New Orleans and Lafayette.
Ciolino conceded that the video footage had raised concerns about Odinet’s impartiality as a judge.
“There was never going to be a situation where African Americans would appear before her and not file motions to recuse,” Ciolino told the Times.
According to the Daily Advertiser, Gov. John Bel Edwards had called on Odinet to resign, as did organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Anti Defamation League.
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