Vanessa Harris Becomes the City of Layfayette’s First Black Judge

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The Louisiana Supreme Court has appointed Judge Vanessa Harris on the bench as the temporary District A judge.

Harris is now the first Black judge appointed in Lafayette City.

Harris is replacing Judge Michelle Odinet, who is currently the subject of an investigation after a video of her allegedly shouting a racial slur while comparing a Black burglar to a cockroach went viral.

Odinet was placed on suspension pending the outcome of more than 100 complaints filed with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission. She has confirmed that it is her voice that’s heard in the video as her peers are heard laughing.

“She is humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she’s done and for the trouble she’s caused to everyone in the community,” said Odinet’s lawyer, Dane Ciolino, told ABC News.

Harris received a B.S. in Computer Science from Southern University in 1985 and earned a J.D. from Southern University Law Center in 1988. She then served as an assistant district attorney in St. Landry Parish and took office as Opelousas city judge on January 1, 2009.

She will serve as judge pro tempore from December 17, 2021, through February 28, 2022.

On Monday, the Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams announced that his civil rights division would launch a review of all cases Odinet prosecuted while she worked in New Orleans in the mid-1990s.

“This insensitivity is dangerous as she oversees a vast amount of cases in her Judiciary that include African Americans who appear before her in court, in the city of Lafayette,” State Chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and Rep. Edward James said.

“A sitting judge should not use any racial slurs or show bias against any specific group of individuals,” he added.

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