District Court Judge Jessie LeBlanc Resigns Following Racial Text Controversy
UPDATE: Two-term District Court Judge Jessie LeBlanc resigns in the wake of a scandal involving her use of racist slurs in text messages sent to a Sheriff’s Deputy she was allegedly having an affair with. The judge admitted to using the slurs, including the n-word about a court employee and an Ascension Parish Sheriff Deputy. The letter was sent to the Secretary of State’s office.
Governor Edwards calls for the resignation of 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc following her admission to using racial slurs in reference to an Ascension Parish deputy and court employee on a private text message. Loyola University law professor Dane Ciolino says it’s outside of the Governor’s reach to make such a call.
“It’s a very unusual comment by the Governor. I can’t think of another situation where a sitting governor has chimed in on the competency of a judge,” said Ciolino.
LaBlanc’s lawyer Jill Craft released a statement saying her client’s statements were made in a private conversation and in response to a clearly threatening situation. If that is now the litmus test for any public official, then every one of our public officials should be immediately held to the same standard.
Ciolino expects the matter to be referred to the Judiciary Commission’s office of Special Counsel for investigation, which does extensive factual background investigations into similar allegations.
“Ultimately it is going to be the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana that has the state constitutional authority to recommend some sort of discipline, whether that is something as minor as a censure or something as onerous as removal,” said Ciolino
Ciolino says the private nature of her use of the slurs makes it an extrajudicial comment rather than something that happened within the confines of the courthouse. But that doesn’t make her exempt from discipline as in 2004, a Houma judge was suspended for a one-year without pay after he dressed in blackface for a private Halloween party.
“Louisiana Supreme Court and the Judiciary Commission don’t look favorably upon comments or conduct that is viewed from an objective standpoint as racist or racially motivated,” said Ciolino.