WBRZ reported Thursday that Judge Jessie Leblanc yielded to public and political pressure by tendering a letter of resignation. It followed a week of controversy after it was revealed that she sent racist text messages, including calling a deputy the N-word.
The white, Louisiana district court judge admitted that she used a racial slur in a text message exchange to describe a Black sheriff’s deputy and Black law clerk. However, she initially refused to resign despite calls to do so.
The 23rd Judicial District Judge LeBlanc told WAFB that she sent a heated text message to her one-time lover, Bruce Prejean, the former Chief Deputy in Assumption Parish, Louisiana. Both LeBlanc and Prejean were married at the time of the affair. Prejean has seen been demoted by Sheriff Leland Falcon after he admitted to the affair last year.
LeBlanc told the station after she ended the affair with Prejean, someone left an anonymous note on her door with the “n-word” scrawled on it, and someone sent a package to her office with Prejean’s phone records. She claims the phone records included the phone number of another judge’s female law clerk, which led her to believe that Prejean and the Black law clerk had been seeing each other.
“From there, I did lash out at him,” the judge told WAFB on Sunday. “And, in lashing out at him, in those text messages, I lashed out at two of his African-American friends. One of them being that law clerk. I did call them that name (n-word). They do not deserve that. They deserve an apology from me. And, I sincerely apologize to both of them for using that word. While I may have been upset, angry, scared, it does not excuse my actions.”
“I admit that I used that word,” LeBlanc added. “I profusely apologize for that. I should have never said it. It was uncalled for. I was angry. I was upset. But, it’s no excuse.”
When the WAFB reporter asked the judge if she ever used the offensive slur before, she appeared to stutter. “Not in a – no – not – no – not in a – no – I have not used that racial slur in the past,” LeBlanc told the station. “This was in a moment of a heated exchange that was private between Bruce and one I that I never dreamed would have come out to the public.
Baton Rouge NAACP President Eugene Collins called for LeBlanc to step down and threatened demonstrations if she fails to do so.
“She should be removed from the bench,” Collins told WAFB. “This is about creating a fair and impartial system.”
Also, District Attorney Ricky Babin and the district’s lead public defender filed a motion asking that LeBlanc remove herself from criminal cases in Assumption Parish or have the court force her to do so.
LeBlanc’s attorney, Jill Craft said the slur was horrible but cautioned as to the widespread implication if LeBlanc was forced out.
“It’s terrible and there’s no excuse – zero excuse – for anyone using that word and that language,” Craft said. “My concern globally is one of where do you draw the line? Does that mean that every judge in the state has to sign an affidavit under oath that they’ve not used the n-word or they’ve not referred to women as the c-word or the b-word or gay people in a derogatory fashion and, if they have, are they automatically disqualified from cases involving women, African Americans, Hispanics, or gay people?”
LeBlanc resisted stepping down.
“I know in my heart that I have done my job to the very best of my ability,” she told the station.
However, that position was not tenable especially as Governor John Bel Edwards and the NAACP demanded she vacate her post.