Louisiana judge 'takes responsibility' after racist slurs heard in video

She said she doesn't remember the incident because she was sedated.

December 16, 2021, 4:14 PM

A Louisiana judge is facing calls to resign after she was heard in video footage uttering racial slurs.

Michelle Odinet, while watching security footage of a Black man being pinned down by police officers after he allegedly attempted to break into her home, is apparently heard saying, "We have a n-----. It's a n-----, like a roach."

"She is humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she's done and for the trouble she's caused to everyone in the community," Odinet's lawyer, Dane Ciolino, said in a phone interview with ABC News. "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."

It's unclear who recorded the video and shared it on social media. Odinet isn't seen in the footage, but she has acknowledged that her voice can be heard.

PHOTO: Judge Michelle Odinet.
Judge Michelle Odinet.
City Court of Lafayette

Ciolino said Odinet is taking full responsibility and confirmed earlier media reports that the judge had taken a sedative before she was recorded saying the racial slurs.

Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory denounced Odinet's alleged language.

"I am disgusted and appalled by the recent reports involving a local judge," Guillory said in a statement to ABC News. "This type of language is hurtful, divisive and unacceptable. The fairness and objectivity of our courts are the foundation of our legal system. It is my hope that the judge will do what is best to help the community heal and move forward."

Several community leaders, including members of ​​the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, have called for her resignation.

"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 Rep. Edward James, chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement to ABC News. "A sitting judge should not use any racial slurs or show bias against any specific group of individuals."

State Rep. Vincent Pierre and state Sen. Gerald Boudreaux also harshly criticized Odinet.

"The citizens of Lafayette deserve to have confidence in the judicial system," Pierre added. "Over half of those that go before city court judges are African Americans who have no confidence in Odinet's ability to rule fairly."

Ciolino said Odinet has heard the calls for action and "believes it's appropriate for her to step aside on an unpaid basis immediately."

Odinet was elected to the Lafayette City Court in November 2020, according to her profile on the City Court of Lafayette website. She previously was a prosecutor for both the Orleans and Lafayette Parish District Attorney's offices, working on juvenile delinquencies and adult felonies, ranging from theft and narcotics to rape and first-degree murder.