In wake of the controversy elicited by a racist video recorded by Judge Michelle Odinet in her home involving a burglary suspect which went viral, Judge Harris has been appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to replace Judge Odinet at Lafayette City Court.
Judge Harris from December 17, 2021, through February 28, 2022, will serve as judge pro tempore.
Recall back in 2009 Judge Harris also made history as the first female and first Black judge elected as Opelousas City Court Judge.
In the said viral clip, Judge Michelle Odinet and her family repeatedly scream“Ni**er!”
According to the Lafayette Police Department, at approximately 2 a.m. Saturday, two vehicles were burglarized in the driveway of a home, owned by Odinet and her husband.
The suspect attempted to flee on foot but was caught by the victim, judge Michelle police said was returning home when the suspect was spotted getting out of one of the vehicles at the home. The victim held the suspect down until officers arrived, according to the statement from police, CNN reports.
In the video circulating online, a male voice can be heard saying, “And Mom’s yelling n***er, n***er.” Then after what appears to be some jovial banter, a female voice is heard saying, “We have a n ***er, It’s a n***er, like a roach,” while laughing.
At some point, the group begins laughing at someone in the surveillance video tripping and someone else losing their wallet.
Then a male voice is heard saying, “That’s my phone where it fell out.”
“The dude had a phone on him,” a female voice chimes in. “You should have taken his phone and stolen from him, that f**king a**hole.”
“Go and get the gun,” says another voice. “It’s important, very important,” says a male voice as the video continues, according to CNN.
The former judge blamed racist language on medication. Her lawyer, Dane Ciolino, said that the judge is “humiliated” and “embarrassed.”
“She is humiliated, embarrassed, and sorry for what she’s done and the trouble she’s caused to the community,” Ciolino said.
Odinet blamed the racist language on a sedative taken because she was “taken to her core” after the burglary.
In a text message sent to The Acadiana Advocate, Odinet asked for “understanding, forgiveness, patience, and prayers” for her and her son.
“I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” Odinet told The Current. “Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives.”
“The situation highlighted and confirmed a suspected substance abuse issue our son is having,” she added. “We are taking the necessary steps to get our son the help and treatment he needs.”
Swift calls for her resignation from high profile personalities including Gov. John Bel Edwards and Lafayette NAACP Chapter President Michael Toussaint were made. The call was echoed by the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, which said the judge had shown “immense racial bias and insensitivity.”
State Rep. Vincent Pierre also criticized Odinet, stating that the constituents “deserve to have confidence in the judicial system” and that “over half of those that go before city court judges are African Americans” that deserve an impartial and fair judge.
The state Supreme Court ordered her disqualification and appointed retired Opelousas City Court Judge Vanessa Harris to fill her seat for now.
Judge Harris earned her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Southern University in 1985 and her Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law Center in 1988. She opened her law firm Harris & Harris Law Firm in 1988 where she began practicing and served as an assistant district attorney in St. Landry Parish from 1988-2008.