Photo: Witthaya Prasongsin, Getty Images
  /  12.20.2021

Judge Vanessa Harris has become the first Black judge to be appointed to Louisiana’s Lafayette City Court after replacing Judge Michelle Odinet, who was suspended without pay after a now-viral video heard her yelling racial slurs.

According to Baton Rouge’s WAFB 9, Harris was appointed as judge pro tempore by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which suspended Odinet without pay on Friday (Dec. 17) in wake of the infamous clip.

Harris, who already made history as the first woman and first African American judge to serve on Opelousas City Court, will remain at the post until Feb. 28. At that time, Odinet will either be allowed to return to the bench or an election will be held to name a new Lafayette City Court judge.

As reported by REVOLT, a clip surfaced last week of Odinet and her family watching a home video of a suspected burglary that happened in their driveway. In the video, a man who is watching the tape can be heard recounting the incident.

“And mom’s yelling, ‘Ni***r! Ni***r!’” he said. A woman’s voice, which has been confirmed to be the judge’s, then said, “We have a ni***r. It’s a ni***r, like a roach.”

After receiving significant backlash for the clip, including calls for her resignation, Odinet claimed to have “zero recollection” of making the comments and said she was under sedatives at the time.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called on the judge to resign last week, saying, “I don’t know that she’d have a valid basis for denying [those recusals]. I believe she should resign. I hope she comes to that conclusion for herself.”

Michael Toussaint, president of the Lafayette chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), made similar demands. “Hate in any form cannot stand and must be condemned,” she said.


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