LAFAYETTE, La. – Two state judges will begin hearing arguments this week about whether an African American Iberia Parish judge should be recused from more than 300 criminal cases after she criticized prosecutors for a high rate of incarceration of black Louisianans.
The comments by 16th Judicial District Court Judge Lori Landry about the treatment of black defendants have prompted claims of bias by the district attorney’s office and support from community members who believe the judge is being treated unfairly.
Prosecutors with 16th Judicial District Attorney Bo Duhé’s office filed motions for recusal in Landry’s cases, arguing she should be removed because she is “biased or prejudiced against (the DA’s office) such that she cannot be fair or impartial.”
The 16th judicial district covers St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary parishes.
Landry has accused the district attorney’s office of incarcerating African Americans more harshly and at a higher rate than others, according to the recusal motion. The judge has suggested prosecutors have improper motivations and engage in “trickery.”
First Assistant District Attorney Robert Vines, who is white, argued in the recusal motion that Landry has “engaged in abusive, inappropriate and/or bullying behavior” toward prosecutors, staff of the district attorney’s office, victims and witnesses.
Some of the recusal motions are scheduled to be heard Wednesday by 16th Judicial District Court Judges Anthony Thibodeaux and Lewis Pitman.
‘This is a violation’
“This is a violation of the constitutional rights of the people who elected me,” The Daily Iberian quoted Landry as saying last month during a hearing when Vines began filing recusal motions in cases on her docket.
Landry, who was elected to her position in 2002, did not respond to requests last week for comment. Before taking office as a judge, she served for nine years as an assistant district attorney.
Landry ruled in an unrelated case in June that one of her fellow 16th Judicial Court judges should not be allowed to sentence a woman in a manslaughter case, arguing years earlier he failed to issue a protective order that might have prevented her from shooting and killing her husband.