Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet asked for “understanding, forgiveness, patience, and prayers” for her and her son as requests for her resignation grow after a video recorded inside Odinet’s home and containing racial slurs was circulated Monday.
On the video, her family gathered to watch home security footage of an armed burglary that took place Saturday in their driveway.
The clip, where a voice is heard saying, “And mom’s yelling n—–, n—–,” to which another female voice answered: “We have a n—–, It’s a n—–, like a roach,” has prompted local officials and community organizers to express concern over Odinet’s rulings since she was elected in 2020.
“As a proud Black man, and the Lafayette City Marshal, I strongly believe Judge Odinet should be held accountable” for the words on the video, Lafayette City Marshall Reggie Thomas said Tuesday.
“I’m sure that people of color will find it impossible to trust that they will be treated fairly and equally when they have to stand for judgment before Judge Odinet,” he said. “This type of language cannot be accepted or tolerated by anyone, especially those who serve as leaders in our city.
“It is up to Judge Odinet to remember the oath she took, and should she remain on the bench, find a way to gain back the trust of ‘all’ of Lafayette, especially African Americans. A mere ineffectual and weak apology will not suffice,” Thomas said.
It’s not clear who recorded the clip or who is speaking. But in a text message sent to The Advocate on Tuesday morning, Odinet said she had “zero recollection of the video” and the disturbing language used on it.
“The situation highlighted and confirmed a suspected substance abuse issue our son is having,” she said. “We are taking the necessary steps to get our son the help and treatment he needs.”
Sen. Gerald Boudreaux called the situation and the comments reprehensible, offensive and unacceptable from anyone serving as a judge.
“We have struggled miserably to garner public support for our judicial system at every level in this country. The political landscape has become so toxic that the negative impact has been identified and evident from the United State Supreme Court to the Lafayette City Court,” Boudreaux said.
“I can assure you that the late Judge Kaliste Saloom, Jr. did not allow and would never condone this racist discourse from any of his children, in his residence or in his neighborhood.”
Boudreaux said he will officially petition the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana to investigate the ethical conduct and actions associated with the incident.
The comments fail to identify any form of lamentation and cast a cloud relative to the impartiality of the judge to serve as an unbiased arbitrator in cases involving African Americans.
On Monday, Michael Toussaint, NAACP president called for Odinet’s resignation. “She is a sitting judge in a sitting court. She represents the community of Lafayette. We can’t condone that type of behavior from her or anyone else for that matter.”