Vanessa Harris Becomes the First Black Judge in the City of Layfayette

Judge Vanessa Harris. Image: courtesy of Louisiana Judicial Council National Bar Association

The Louisiana Supreme Court has appointed Judge Vanessa Harris to fill in for suspended Lafayette City Judge Michelle Odinet. She will be the first Black judge in the history of the city of Lafayette, KLFY reports.

Harris will serve on the bench as the temporary District A judge while Odinet is under investigation.

Judge Ronald D. Cox was set to take Odinet’s place, according to reports. Currently, Odinet is vacationing out of the country on a trip that was planned before she became the subject of an investigation. Now, Cox will fill in for Odinet while she is out of the country and Harris will replace her until Odinet returns to the bench or if an election is held to remove her from office.

A Washington, Louisiana native, Judge 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. Since 1988, she’s been in private practice with law firm of Harris & Harris. She served as an assistant district attorney in St. Landry Parish from 1988 to 2008 and took office as Opelousas city judge on January 1, 2009, retiring in 2020. 

As EBONY previously reported, judge Michelle M. Odinet is facing calls to resign from the bench. She took an unpaid leave of absence after a video with racist language recorded at her home surfaced.

Earlier this month, the Lafayette Police Department said at around 2:00 a.m., two vehicles were burglarized in the driveway of Ms. Odinet’s property.

Surveillance footage appears to show the outdoor altercation with the burglary suspect being played on television while people, who are not visible, view and give racist commentary. 

In the viral video, a man is heard saying, “And Mom’s yelling n***er, n***er.” Then, the woman is heard saying, “We have a n ***er., It’s a n***er, like a roach,” while laughing.

In a statement to KATC, Odinet said she had been “given a sedative” and had no “recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”

“My children and I were the victims of an armed burglary at our home,” the statement read. “The police were called, and the assailant was arrested. The incident shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile. I was a wreck and am still unable to sleep. I was given a sedative at the time of the video. I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”

“Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives,” she added. “I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness and understanding as my family and I deal with the emotional aftermath of this armed burglary.”

Harris’ term of service is from Dec. 17, 2021, through Feb. 28, 2022, subject to the completion of any unfinished business.

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