Amid calls for her resignation, Michelle Odinet, judge of the City Court of Lafayette, Louisiana, was disqualified from working after she used a racial slur in a video made public last week.
An unknown source released a minute-long video of Judge Odinet and other people inside the judge’s home watching and narrating security-camera footage of a person trying to break into a car in the judge’s driveway early in the morning on December 11.
A racist slur is used repeatedly, and laughing and cheering can be heard as the security footage shows two people tackling a man to the ground.
“And Mom’s yelling n*****, n*****,” says one male voice, to which a female voice responds: “We have a n *****, It’s a n*****, like a roach.”
The speakers’ faces are not visible on camera, but Judge Odinet’s lawyer, Dane Ciolino, said in an interview that the judge herself used a racial slur in the video. She feels “humiliated and embarrassed by what she admittedly did,” Mr. Ciolino said.
Earlier, Judge Odinet told The Current that she was given a sedative at the time of video and had “zero recollection” of the video and the “disturbing language” in it.
She said she and her children were the victims of an “armed burglary” at her home that “was horrific” and “shook” her “to the core.”
The report from the Lafayette Police Department says the man attempted to run away when a car pulled into the driveway at 2 am last Saturday, The Current reported, and an unnamed person caught him and held him down until police officers arrived.
The 59-year-old man, who is Black, was arrested and charged with simple burglary of an auto, The Current reported. Police have said he was not armed.
Judge Odinet, a Republican and former prosecutor, was elected in November 2020 to a six-year term as the judge for Division A of Lafayette City Court.
On Thursday, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered that Judge Odinet is “disqualified from exercising judicial functions, without salary, during the pendency of further proceedings in this matter.” She had requested an unpaid leave of absence.
The president of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP called for the judge to resign. “We do not believe a person having her revealed disposition should fulfill any office bearing the powers over judiciary,” Michael Toussaint said in a statement.
The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, the Louisiana Democratic Party, and the Southern division of the Anti-Defamation League have also called for her resignation, The New York Times reported.
“This situation and the comments are reprehensible, offensive and totally unacceptable from anyone serving as a judge,” State Senator Gerald Boudreaux said in a statement, adding that he would officially petition the state’s Judiciary Commission to investigate. Her comments “cast a cloud relative to the impartiality of the judge to serve as an unbiased arbitrator in cases involving African Americans.”
The Mayor-President of Lafayette’s Consolidated Government, Josh Guillory, said he was disgusted by the reports. “This type of language is hurtful, divisive, and unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “The fairness and objectivity of our courts are the foundation of our legal system. It is my hope that the judge will do what is best to help the community heal and move forward.”
“The usage of the N-word to describe any individual is not only deplorable, it is revealing of racial prejudice, let alone from such a high representative of our judicial system,” Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas told KATC. “I’m sure that people of color will find it impossible to trust that they will be treated fairly and equally when they have to stand for judgment before Judge Odinet. This type of language cannot be accepted or tolerated by anyone, especially those who serve as leaders in our city.”