Lafayette Judge Caught Using Racist Slur on Video Temporarily Suspended Without Pay

Photo courtesy of Lafayette City Court

The National Bar Association and Gov. John Bel Edwards have joined those calling for Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet to resign after she was caught on video using racist slurs in her home.

On Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court released an order temporarily disqualifying Odinet from the bench. The Court appointed retired Opelousas City Court Judge Vanessa Harris as judge pro tempore in her place until Feb. 28. Harris will be the first Black woman to serve as a judge in Lafayette.

According to the order, Odinet requested the disqualification herself while she takes time to consider her path forward, saying through her attorney Dane Ciolino that she is “embarrassed and humiliated,” and apologizing for the harm caused to the community.

Those words aren’t enough to mitigate that harm, however. Two Black defendants have already filed motions requesting Odinet recuse herself from their cases on the grounds “that she is prejudiced and bias (sic) against African Americans.” More are expected to follow suit, and defendants already sentenced may have grounds to have their cases reopened.

“I believe you would see perhaps all – if she were not to resign – perhaps all of the litigants before her who are African-American would seek her recusal, and I’m not sure she has a valid basis for denying that recusal,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“So there is no efficient administration of justice if she stays on the bench. So it would be my hope that this period of reflection that she’s going through would lead her to that same conclusion. I believe she should resign. I hope she will conclude that for herself.”

“Judge Odinet’s statements were absolutely disgusting and as President of the National Bar Association, I am calling for her to resign from her post as judge. I too, am a judge and as a member of the bench and a Black man, I am highly offended, and do not believe Odinet deserves to be in the ranks of the judiciary,” said National Bar Association President Carlos Moore in a statement Wednesday.

There is one group jumping up to defend Odinet, however, claiming that calls to hold the judge accountable for her actions is instead the work of “Cancel Culture.”

Louisiana conservative publication The Hayride and its editor Scott McKay have been quick to defend Odinet – an unsurprising move considering their previous reporting – including their unabashed support of the attempted insurrection on Jan 6, 2021. In an editorial column defending Odinet, McKay – under his well-known pseudonym MacAoidh – noted that while “the Michelle Odinet situation is ‘a disaster’,” he notes that “Perhaps the biggest crime here is one of the kids actually taking video of the after-action conversation and posting it on the internet somewhere.”

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