Judge Vanessa Harris Becomes Lafayette’s First Black City Judge After Judge Accused Of Spewing Racial Slurs

The Louisiana Supreme court has appointed the city of Lafayette’s first Black municipal judge, KLFY 10 reports.

Judge Vanessa Harris will temporarily fill in for City Judge Michelle Odinet after she was heard on video spewing racist obscenities when an attempted car burglary took place outside her residence. She has since been suspended while an investigation is underway regarding her behavior.

Odinet said she had a sedative at the time of the recording but her lawyer, Dane Ciolino, supported the evidence that Odinet indeed used racial commentary, KATC 3 reports.

According to CNN, a female voice can be heard saying, “We have a n ****r, It’s a n****r, like a roach.” 

Initially, Judge Ronald D. Cox was set to be the interim judge in Odinet’s place during her vacation time out of the country, Myarklamiss reports. However, Harris will fill the position until Odinet’s successor is in place post an election, or until she returns to the bench. Speculation as to whether Odinet will be removed from office still remains.

Harris is a retired assistant district attorney in Opelousas of the St. Landry Parish nearly three hours away from the city of New Orleans.

A Washington, Louisiana, native, Harris obtained her undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Southern University in 1985. She later received her Juris Doctor degree in 1988 from Southern University Law Center, the Louisiana Judicial Council reports.

After working as a private practitioner with Harris & Harris Law firm, she became an assistant district attorney in St. Landry Parish from 1988 until 2008.

On Jan. 1, 2009, Harris took office as a municipal judge in Opelousas where she would retire in 2020. Her duties began on Dec. 17 and will continue until Feb. 28, 2022, contingent on any abandoned legal matters.

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