Michelle Odinet.jpg

Michelle Odinet

The Louisiana Supreme Court released an order Friday that temporarily disqualified Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet from the bench and appointed retired Opelousas City Court Judge Vanessa Harris as judge pro tempore through Feb. 28.

Odinet was filmed recently using the N-word, prompting several complaints to the state's Judiciary Commission.

The order, dated Dec. 16, says that Odinet requested a temporary disqualification, which the state's Judiciary Commission supported. She will not be paid during her suspension. 

"It is ordered, adjudged and decreed that Judge Michelle Odinet, Lafayette City Court, Lafayette Parish, State of Louisiana, be and hereby is disqualified from exercising judicial functions, without salary, during the pendency of further proceedings in these matters," the order states.

The order, which is effective immediately, says more than 100 complaints were filed regarding Odinet's language on the video.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice John Weimer signed the order, which five other justices supported.

Top stories in Acadiana in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

It included a lone dissent from state Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes.

"While I condemn the language reported in the media, at this point all we have are media reports," Hughes wrote in his dissent. "I would like to see some hard facts as to who said what and when. This situation did not happen in a vacuum."

It is rare for a Judge to agree to be suspended without salary in Louisiana. Also, compared to previous investigations, this suspension arrived quicker than usual. It often takes weeks before the Judiciary Commission gets to this phase. In Odinet’s case, it was less than a week.

Odinet's attorney, Dane Ciolino, confirmed to The Acadiana Advocate this week that Odinet used the racial slurs in the video filmed in her home. He said she was going to request unpaid leave from the Judiciary Commission while she considered her future actions.

A host of elected officials, including Gov. John Bel Edwards and U.S. State. Rep. Troy Carter of New Orleans have called on Odinet to resign.

Until recently, the Judiciary Commission didn’t disclose information about the process of investigating a judge until there’s a recommendation. Now such cases become public once there’s a “notice of hearing” filed against a judge, essentially a formal charge meaning the commission has done a preliminary investigation and determined there’s enough evidence to move forward. Sometimes these leaves lead to resignations, as embattled judges avoid state Supreme Court hearings