Judge Vanessa Harris appointed by Louisiana Supreme Court as Judge Pro Tempore of Lafayette City Court, Division A
Harris will replace suspended judge Michelle Odinet
Judge Vanessa Harris has been appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to replace suspended Judge Michelle Odinet in wake of her racist video, which surfaced in mid-December.
Judge Harris, who is the first African American judge ever appointed to Lafayette City Court, will serve as judge pro tempore from Dec. 17, 2021 through Feb. 28, 2022.
The infamous video, which has made its rounds on social media, features Odinet uttering racial epithets while watching security footage of a Black man being detained by the police after reportedly trying to break into her home.
“We have a n—er. It’s a n—er, like a roach,” she said. Odinet was put on suspension without pay on Friday.
The video shows a television screen with security footage being watched by what seems like several people.
“She is humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she’s done and for the trouble she’s caused to everyone in the community,” said Odinet’s lawyer, Dane Ciolino, to ABC News in a phone interview.
The judge then claimed that she doesn’t remember the moment because she was on “sedatives,” but takes full responsibility for her actions.
“She is taking, effective immediately, an unpaid leave of absence from the bench. She hasn’t made any longer-term decisions than that, but will in the next several weeks,” her lawyer continued.
The video caused an uproar in the local and national community, and many called for the judge to resign.
“This insensitivity is dangerous as she oversees a vast amount of cases in her Judiciary that include African Americans who appear before her in court, in the city of Lafayette,” State Chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and Rep. Edward James said.
“A sitting judge should not use any racial slurs or show bias against any specific group of individuals,” he added.
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.
Other leaders in the Black community, including civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, have joined and called for her resignation.
Judge Harris is a native of Louisiana and got her bachelors’s degree and Juris doctor from Southern University, a public HBCU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
She opened her own practice, the Harris & Harris law firm in 1988, and made history in 2009 when she was elected as the Opelousas City Court judge, where she became the first woman and African American to serve on the bench.
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