Louisiana district judge Jessie LeBlanc submitted her resignation Thursday amid fallout over a series of racist text messages referencing two Black employees.
LeBlanc’s admitted use of the N-word sparked calls from the community for her immediate removal, including Gov. John Bel Edwards who criticized the remarks as “derogatory and degrading.”
“Sadly, inequities still exist in society and in our judiciary,” Edwards said, as reported by local station WAFB. “Judge LeBlanc compromised her ability to preside as a judge and she or he has damaged the judiciary. She should resign. The people of the 23rd Judicial District and our state deserve better.”
The embattled judge would hand in her letter of resignation the subsequent day, but not without levying a couple of accusations of her own.
“It’s with an important heart and profound regret that I tender my resignation as Judge, 23rd Judicial District Court,” she began. “While i’m not excusing my behavior in employing a racially inappropriate word, I even have and can still apologize for it.
“My use of the word was out of fear and anger,” LeBlanc continued, insisting the incident in no way reflected her true character.
In a recent interview with WAFB, LeBlanc admitted to using the racial slur to ask a law clerk and sheriff’s deputy — both of whom are African-American — during a heated text exchange with LeBlanc’s ex-lover, then- Assumption Parrish chief deputy Bruce Prejean. The embattled judge was already facing tough criticism after confirming her years-long extramarital affair with the high-ranking cop. LeBlanc apologized for her racist language, saying she didn’t think anyone would ever see it.
“Not during a – no – not – no – not during a – no – I haven’t used that racial slur within the past,” she stammered when asked if she had used the N-word before. “This was during a moment of a heated exchange that was private between Bruce and that i , that I never dreamed would have begin to the general public .” In her resignation to the Louisiana Supreme Court, LeBlanc claimed a minimum of three of her court employees were conscious of her relationship with Prejean. She further alleged that another judge within the district, Judge Alvin Turner, was made aware in 2017 that one among his own law clerks was also having an affair with Prejean at the time.
“It’s my understanding that relationship continued,” she wrote. “Likewise, I understand it’s fairly well-known Mr. Prejean has engaged during a relationship with a high-ranking official with the governor’s staff, [yet], nobody seems to possess bothered to ferret that out.”
After ending her affair with the deputy, LeBlanc claims she was targeted with anonymous phone calls, memos and a wrapped “Christmas” present containing Prejan’s phone records highlighting his “on-going contact” with said law clerk, who’s reportedly African-American.
The judge confirmed this was the crux of their heated argument during which she lambasted the sheriff’s deputy for allegedly cheating on her with “a n—-r.” She also mentioned another Black employee as a “thug n—-r.”
“I further understand that warrants were likewise submitted to the court, but nobody is seeking recusal, reopening of cases, or public outcry of any kind,” LeBlanc opined in her resignation letter. “Let me be clear, I might not wish this on anyone. But I do believe that if we are to inflict punishment on one, it must be fairly apportioned across everything .”
Judge Turner has denied the claims and accused LeBlanc of trying to distort the reality and take the warmth off herself. She previously refused to step down amid the controversy and planned to serve the rest of her term.
Officials with Baton Rouge NAACP threatened to protest, should LeBlac refuse to go away willingly. Chapter president Eugene Collins was among those pushing for the judge’s resignation, but he said he doesn’t consider her removal a “victory.”
“Are we happy that somebody that used the N-word is not any longer having the chance to preside over members of our community? Yes,” Collins told WAFB. “But victory? No, because we shouldn’t still be fighting these issues in 2020.”