Judge asserts she said ‘master’ as in Jedi master, not ‘massa’ as former clerk reported

Patrice Warren alleges in a reinstatement letter that Judge Laurie White fired her because Warren filed a human resources complaint about the jurist's use of racist language.

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The ex-clerk of a New Orleans judge says the judge fired her because she reported the judge’s alleged use of racist language and because she refused to sign an affidavit that she asserts was inaccurate. But her former employer says criminal charges prompted the clerk’s termination.

According to The Times-Picayune, Patrice Warren filed a complaint with human resources stating that Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White told a bi-racial intern in her courtroom to “go call your massa,” another name for “master” commonly used during slavery. 

Warren, who was dismissed on July 28, reported the alleged use of the racist language in a letter to court officials as part of her request for reinstatement, the news outlet reported. Another individual in the courtroom corroborated Warren’s recollection of the white judge using the racist language during the June incident, The Picayune reported, but that person requested anonymity, fearing retaliation.

A New Orleans criminal court judge denies accusations by her former clerk, which include her use of racist language. (Adobe Stock Image)

Additionally, Warren said her formerly amicable relationship with White changed after the clerk refused to sign an affidavit related to White’s defense against sexual harassment allegations.

But according to White, she fired Warren because the clerk received a second DWI conviction and performed subpar work, which constituted a violation of trust and “obstinate” behavior.

In a text message to The Picayune, White said she learned of Warren’s second DWI on July 12 — after she pleaded guilty and drove to work with a suspended license. White fired her two weeks later. The judge also claimed she used the word “master,” not “massa” and that her intention had been misinterpreted.

“It was not intended as a derogatory adjective or noun nor a racial slur or negative comment,” she said. “I used the term likening him [the intern’s employer] as a legal master, task master to his student intern and associates, like a Jedi-master, or as a pronoun used by local music artist, Master P.”

Voters elected White to the bench in 2007. In February, she was accused of repeatedly harassing a court employee both inside and outside of the courtroom. A copy of an eight-page affidavit about the case notes that White gave her accuser lingerie at a holiday party in December 2021, which Warren claims made the individual appear “uncomfortable” for some time after receiving it. 

According to Warren, White’s private attorneys interviewed her about the accusations. Warren said she refused to sign the affidavit because it did not accurately reflect her statements.

Warren, who also denies hiding details of her DWI from White, said the judge sent her harassing texts in an effort to convince her to sign the affidavit. The former clerk did not give The Picayune evidence of those texts, the newspaper reported.

“We were cool. We were close,” said Warren. “But we don’t have to be close. You respect me, I respect you — I’m here to do a job … and I would go back and work with her.”

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