Judge resigns amid use of racial slur in text messages
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana judge resigned Thursday after several people, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, called for her to step down for using racial slurs in angry text messages.
State District Judge Jessie LeBlanc tendered her resignation effectively immediately in signed letters to the Secretary of State’s Office and the Louisiana Supreme Court, news outlets reported.
“My decision is one borne out of prayer and fully cognizant of what this ordeal has done to my family. I thank God for them every day. I believe, however, as much as I wish to fight the irresponsible and vicious attacks, it is in my family’s best interests and that of my 23rd JDC community, to stop the madness,” LeBlanc wrote. “We do not need another Judge being endlessly attacked and vilified at the expense of the integrity of our system of justice.”
LeBlanc, who is white, now admits to sending the text messages after previously denying she sent them. She acknowledged in an interview Sunday on WAFB-TV that she used the slur to describe a black sheriff’s deputy and a black law clerk in text messages she sent to former Assumption Parish Chief Deputy Bruce Prejean as their extramarital affair ended. The judge’s admission came on the heels of previous reports in both WBRZ and The Advocate about the judge and the messages.
“I profusely apologize for that. I should have never said it,” she told WAFB-TV. But she also said at that time that she had no plans to resign and instead was gearing up to seek reelection when her current term in Louisiana’s 23rd Judicial District expires in December. The district includes Assumption, Ascension and St. James parishes.
Edwards said in a statement that LeBlanc “has compromised her ability to preside as a judge, and she has damaged the judiciary. She should resign.”
“The admitted and repeated use of racial slurs by a judge who has taken an oath to administer justice fairly and impartially is wrong, period,” the Democratic governor said. “There is never any circumstance or context in which such derogatory and degrading language is okay.”
LeBlanc’s lawyer, Jill Craft, said Edwards should focus on his own branch of government rather than criticize the judge, who made her “contrition clear” about comments she made in a “private conversation.”
The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus also called on the judge Wednesday to immediately leave the position, saying if she refused to do so, the state’s Judiciary Commission should start an independent investigation of her conduct.
In the text messages, LeBlanc had used a racist slur to describe a black court employee and black Assumption sheriff’s deputy as she aired her suspicions with Prejean that he was in a relationship with the court employee, a clerk for another judge in LeBlanc’s River Parishes judicial district, the messages show.
LeBlanc, who like Prejean is married to someone else, had been in an extended relationship with him that ended in 2016 but had received an anonymous package in December 2018 detailing the phone records of Prejean’s calls to the court employee, setting off the explosive text messages to him, LeBlanc told WAFB.