Nineteenth Judicial District Judge Trudy White's abrupt and unexplained three-month paid leave of absence that began Monday remained shrouded in mystery Thursday.
White offered a simple "No comment" in a text message Thursday morning, while the 19th Judicial District Court's chief judge, East Baton Rouge Parish's top prosecutor and a Louisiana Supreme Court spokeswoman all said they could shed no light on the reason for White's leave.
Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes signed an order Nov. 2 appointing retired 21st Judicial District Judge Bruce Bennett to take over White's docket in the downtown Baton Rouge state courthouse from Nov. 14 through Feb. 12.
"I have no idea what the basis is," said William Morvant, the 19th JDC's chief judge.
"I am unaware of the reason for her leave," District Attorney Hillar Moore III added. "She advised our staff that she would be away and had made arrangements for another judge to fill in."
Supreme Court spokeswoman Valerie Willard likewise said she was not aware of the reason for White's leave.
"All I have is the order and that is all I know," she said.
Media reports earlier this year questioned why White allegedly repeatedly orders and forces defendants appearing before her to use a specific home supervision firm called RHI. The company's owner, Cleve Dunn Sr., and his son have done work for White's judicial campaigns. WAFB-TV also reported that Cleve Dunn Jr. was the head of White's campaign at one point.
White has declined to discuss the matter, citing the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct that forbids judges to comment on specific cases.
The Code of Judicial Conduct also warns judges to avoid impropriety or even the "appearance of impropriety" in all activities.
White is a former Baton Rouge City Court judge. She became the first black female elected to that court in 1999.
White, 60, has served on the 19th JDC since 2009 after defeating incumbent state District Judge Curtis Calloway in the fall of 2008. She was re-elected in November 2014, turning back challengers Gideon Carter III and the late state Rep. Alfred Williams.
During that campaign, White's opponents blasted her for appearing in a video with a man in an orange prison jumpsuit promoting her candidacy inside a courtroom. White contended she never authorized the release of the video with comedian Jomo Jenkins. The video was swiftly removed from the Internet. She declined to say whether the video was recorded inside her courtroom.
Jenkins stated in the video: "I'm down here at the 19th but check this out, I ain't gonna be here that long 'cause Judge Trudy White is fixin' to send me back home. So if you want somebody to show you some love, vote for Trudy White on November the 4th."
White touted her judicial experience and integrity during her successful 2014 re-election bid.
Two years earlier, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge. Incumbent Circuit Judge Mike McDonald retained the seat. Carter finished second in that race. White was third in the primary and missed the runoff.