Does Laurie White Still Meet Qualifications To Serve as an Orleans Parish Judge?

Laurie A. White has been a judge for Section A of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court for 15 years with her current term set to end in 2026. During that time she has been an innovative leader, run a tight docket and has received numerous awards. She has also been the subject of a fair amount of unflattering publicity.

Earlier this year, White took a medical leave of absence which some believed was a signal that she would not complete her current term of office. Yet White returned quickly – perhaps too quickly – and may no longer be eligible to serve as a judge in Orleans Parish.

Since 2012 White and her husband Thomas M. Wilson III resided in the French Quarter at 732 Governor Nicholls Street where White also registered to vote. On August 9, 2022 White and Wilson sold their French Quarter residence to Douglas J. Cook for $1.475 Million via an all-cash deal. The act of sale, which was notarized by Sean Pilie and witnessed and recorded appropriately, included language that White and Wilson are “both persons of the full age of majority and residents of the Parish of St. Tammany, State of Louisiana.” St Tammany Parish assessment records indicate that White and Wilson purchased a residence in Folsom on Highway 1080.

A spokesperson for the St. Tammany assessor’s office confirmed Tuesday that White and Wilson still own property at a Folsom address and that neither has taken a homestead exemption. White is still registered to vote at the Governor Nicholls Street address though she and her husband no longer own the property. Louisiana law states that elected officials can have multiple residences but only one domicile. The current location of White’s residence is known but she has not changed her voter registration to reflect a new domicile.

How can a district judge move to another parish and still remain on the bench of the parish where he or she previously lived?  If White is trying to play by her own set of rules, it would not be the first time.

In February, 2022 a workplace sexual harassment claim was made against White for alleged sexual advances on a courthouse staffer.  While White says an investigation by an outside law firm “vindicated” her, the Judicial Commission of the Louisiana Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling. The accuser has also filed a complaint with the EEOC, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is possible that a lawsuit could follow if the complaint is found to have merit.

Just weeks before selling her French Quarter property, White terminated clerk Patrice Warren because of what White described as poor job performance and a previous DWI conviction. Warren alleges that she was actually fired for reporting White’s racist language in the courtroom. In June 2022, Warren said she overheard White suggest to a bi-racial intern to “go call your ‘massa,” which could refer to life during Louisiana’s plantation past. A second staff person also confirmed White’s remarks.  White claims the word she actually used was “master” and was not intended as a racist or negative comment.

White’s future on the criminal court bench is now clouded with this new allegation. Perhaps retirement is on the horizon after all.

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