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La. State Supreme Court appoints interim judge to fill seat of Michelle Odinet

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Posted at 5:12 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 19:08:16-05

LAFAYETTE, La. – The Louisiana State Supreme Court appoints an interim judge to fill the seat of former Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet.

The Court announced Friday that retired Opelousas City Judge Vanessa Harris will be seated as judge pro tempore of Division A, Lafayette City Court, for the period of December 17, 2021 through February 28, 2022, subject to the completion of any unfinished business, according to the La. Supreme Court.

Retired Judge Harris earned her bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Southern University in 1985 and her law degree from Southern University Law Center in 1988.

She began her career practicing law with the Harris & Harris Law Firm in 1988 and served as an assistant district attorney in St. Landry Parish from 1988-2008. She made history in 2009 when she was elected Opelousas City Court Judge, becoming the first woman and first African American to serve on that bench. Harris served as judge of Opelousas City Court until her retirement in December 2020.

Also, on Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court released an announcement approving Judge Michelle Odinet's request for an unpaid leave of absence. According to the court, effective immediately, Judge Odinet will be disqualified from exercising judicial functions, without salary, pending further proceedings.

Louisiana Supreme Court, Associate Justice Jefferson D. Hughes III dissented on the decision. "While I condemn the language reported in the media, at this point all we have are media reports. I would like to see some hard facts as to who said what and when. This situation did not happen in a vacuum." Read that story here.

On Monday, video footage taken at Judge Odinet's home circulated online following an attempted burglary there over the weekend. The video appears to show a group of people watching home surveillance. A woman's voice can be heard saying the n-word and comparing the suspect to a roach. Odinet said in a statement that she was given a sedative at the time of the video and has "zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it."

Odinet's attorney, Dane Ciolino, confirmed Wednesday that Odinet said the slurs.

Related stories:

Lafayette judge facing questions over racist remarks in video

Reports: Old social media posts show Michelle Odinet setting up traps for burglars

Lafayette Judge Michelle Odinet to take unpaid leave of absence

Louisiana Supreme Court responds to Odinet's judicial leave

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