Officials release statements on Judge Odinet
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas, and State Senator Gerald Boudreaux have separately released statements regarding racist remarks from video footage taken at Judge Michelle Odinet's home.
On Monday, KATC published a story about the Lafayette judge facing questions over a racist video being circulated online. Click here to read that story.
Urban League of Louisiana:
The Urban League of Louisiana condemns the racist remarks made by Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet that were recently captured on video.
Remarks like these are unacceptable in any circumstance, but it is abhorrent to hear it come from an official who is entrusted to serve her community. Her position of power and authority requires a level of decency, and the people of Lafayette should be able to expect any judge that has been elected to serve to be unbiased and respectful of those who come before them. Her display of blatant racism goes against the most basic qualities that should be expected from a sitting judge.
Judge Odinet should be ashamed of her reprehensible remarks and the Urban League of Louisiana calls for her immediate resignation. We also call upon the Judiciary Board of Louisiana to investigate this matter further and remove Judge Odinet from her position in the interest of fairness should she not resign.
Racial bias has no place in our world, especially from people responsible for protecting civil and human rights. The Urban League of Louisiana will continue to advocate for a more fair and just system that is free from racism and prejudice.
Lafayette City Council District 5 council member Glenn Lazard:
Most of our community and indeed the nation have recently heard the egregious and appalling comments recently made by Lafayette City Court Judge Michele Odinet. The ability of a Judge to be fair and impartial is at the foundation and indeed the bedrock of our legal and criminal justice system. The comments expressed by Judge Odinet, the cavalier nature by which they were expressed and her seemingly inability to recognize the severity of the comments and acceptance of responsibility raise serious concerns as to her ability to render fair and impartial justice to people of color and undermines public confidence in the judicial system.
I strongly believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt and realize that none of us are perfect. However, judges because of the power and authority they exercise over peoples’ lives and liberty should and must be held to the highest of standards. Judge Odinet has clearly failed to meet that standard. Therefore, I am left with no choice but to conclude that it is in the best interest of our community that Judge Odinet tender her resignation immediately. Then and only then will public confidence be restored in the judicial system and our community can heal and move forward.
Anti-Defamation League Southern Division:
Judges are supposed to be fair and impartial arbiters of justice for all. The racist comments made by Judge Odinet are indicative of a troubling bias against Black people, which is disqualifying for an objective legal official who decides the fates of peoples' lives. ADL fully supports the call to the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana to further examine Judge Odinet's conduct and take swift and appropriate action — Louisianians deserve accountability.
ADL Southern Division Policy Director, Aaron Ahlquist
Lafayette NAACP chapter President Michael Toussain (edited for language):
The NAACP is disheartened to learn of the racially charged comments made by Judge Michelle Odinet of the Lafayette City Court. It is difficult sometime to believe that such attitudes based on race and racial indifference persist in these days among the learnt, elected officials of our great community.
While we continue to strive to form the more perfect union there are still those who bare the mark of America’s original sin of racism. The recently reveal video is clear that Judge Michelle Odinet see people base on the color of their skin and she holds a firm belief they are no more than roaches, rats or lesser species than herself. Her quote “We got ——!” is the clearest expression of her heart in regards to respecting people of diverse racial backgrounds. If she had said “We got thieves” we would understand that, but the use of the word ——, clearly expresses that Judge Michelle Odinet places all black people in a position of inferiority and discontent. Her voice is remnant of the shouts at lynchings in years gone by and white mob’s mentality that is evident still today.
We do not believe a person having her revealed disposition should fulfil any office bearing the powers over judiciary.
We call now for her immediate and uncompromising resignation, failing same, we demand swift and immediate act by the Judiciary Committee of the Louisiana Supreme Court, removing her from office.
Furthermore, we ask the Louisiana Bar Association Office of Disciplinary Council to suspend her license to practice law for lack of character and fitness to practice in the State of Louisiana.
We now call upon Chief Judge Douglas J Saloom of Lafayette City Court to act within the powers granted to him as Chief Judge.
We seek the following:
- That he recognizes and declare Judge Michelle Odinet as being unable to sit impartially in the handling of her tribunal duties especially in the case of non-white defendants.
- To entertain motions to vacate all ruling on traffic and criminal matters rendered by Judge Michelle Odinet since seated on the bench.
- Investigate and analyze all actions of Judge Michelle Odinet in the exercising of her duties, seeking to determine if racial biases had any impact upon her ruling and actions.
The NAACP believes that if we are to move into a fully integrated society that all good men and women of high repute, standing and positions should stand in solidarity with this call and openly declare that the conduct of Judge Michelle Odinet in not acceptable in this society in this day.
Furthermore, we call all organizations, political leaders, elected officials, and community activists to stand in solidarity with our rejecting of any conduct such as those committed by Judge Michelle Odinet in the revealed references to ——. Let there be a clear, concise, and uniformed message that such racial intolerance will not be tolerated.
Finally, it is our prayer a prophetic voice be heard from the varies religious leaders of this community both black and white. In addition to prayers by these leaders, we hope to receive a call to action to continue the fight for racial justice, equality and equity.
President Michael Toussaint
Mayor-President Josh Guillory's statement:
I am disgusted and appalled by the recent reports involving a local judge. 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.
Statement from Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas:
When I was elected to the position of City Marshal, one of my promises was to make sure that everyone who visited City Court for any reason, would be treated fairly and with integrity. I believe my office has done its part to do that. Yesterday, a video surfaced with several people using the N-word. It is my understanding that Lafayette City Judge Michelle Odinet has confirmed that the video was taken at her residence. Since that time, several people have asked my position and thoughts on the matter.
Before I was elected the first African American to a Citywide seat in the City of Lafayette, I was a proud black man. Even at this mature stage of my life, this language still hurts me to my core. I am certain that most people of color share my pain when the N-word is used to describe us. With that being said, 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. This type of language cannot be accepted or tolerated by anyone, especially those who serve as leaders in our city.
I understand that a burglary was taken place, and that’s a strenuous circumstance. Nonetheless, it is during tough situations that our character is revealed. The usage of the N-word to describe any individual is not only deplorable, it is revealing of racial prejudice, let alone from such a high representative of our judicial system.
As a proud black man, and the Lafayette City Marshal, I strongly believe Judge Odinet should be held accountable. 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.
As stated before, I pledge to everyone that walks through the doors of City Court, that my Marshals will be respectful and provide security to everyone.
Statement from State Senator Gerald Boudreaux:
Let me express my disappointment, as words are inadequate to describe my pain after reviewing the family video at the home of our current city court judge, Mrs. Odinet.
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. 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.
The Lafayette community deserves and must have loyal political leadership if it is to be respected and recruit businesses and families that will ultimately call Acadiana their home. I respectfully request and will officially petition that the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana investigate the ethical conduct and actions associated with the recent developments.
This situation and the comments are reprehensible, offensive and totally unacceptable from anyone serving as a judge. 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.
As the Advent season continues, I pray for justice and peace and for a keen awareness from all members of our community, especially when we identify and address sensitive, cultural and racial issues. The improper handling or the continuous denial, contributes to a high level of tension, divisiveness and destruction. I once again appeal to the community to speak out against the chaos and confusion that has infiltrated Washington, D.C. and is now evident in Lafayette, LA.
While some might say our brightest days are ahead of us, this situation illuminates the dark past that has destroyed many communities. Remaining silent when it is time to speak out is indicative of complicity. Our community deserves better and we should not stop until we have accountability and transparency.
NFAC has also issued a statement about Odinet:
"There is no way this person can continue to serve as a fair and impartial judge while harboring these racist views of the African American citizens of the great city of LaFayette. The NFAC echoes the position of Sen Boudreaux and others that it is in the best interest of justice and public belief in a fair and impartial law based judiciary, that Judge Michelle Odinet resign her judgeship immediately."
NFAC Global, Grand Master Jay, Supreme Commander
Recent Stories from katc.com
Community organizer Matthew Humphrey held a sit-in in front of Lafayette City Court Tuesday. He told KATC's Taylor Toole that he felt he had a duty to warn potential defendants of Odinet's courtroom in light of the recent racial comments tied to the judge and her household.
Along with this, Humphrey said he has already filed an official complaint petitioning that the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana investigates Judge Odinet's actions further — asking the Commission to take what he calls "appropriate and immediate action."
"There's no way out of this, and yeah, she absolutely should resign, today, she should've resigned already," Humphrey said.
KATC has reached out to local attorneys and organizations for comment and will update this story as they come in.