A Baton Rouge judge has been banned from a local restaurant after he allegedly used racial slurs against an African American woman. Kaneitra Johnson posted on Facebook about the incident, saying Judge Mike Erwin called her the n-word while arguing over a bar seat at Sammy’s on Highland Road. Louisiana NAACP President Ernest Johnson says we should expect more from our leaders, and words do matter.
“I just think that regardless of who you are, as far as moral standards, I don’t think it’s a term that should be a part of our vocabulary and used whether you’re black or white,” Johnson said.
Legal analyst Tim Meche says the Louisiana Judiciary Commission might investigate the incident, and if the allegations are proved true, Erwin will be disciplined. Meche says a similar instance occurred when a Houma judge went to a Halloween party in a blackface costume in 2004. He says that judge was suspended for a year.
“If these allegations are proven true, they would probably make a similar finding concerning Judge Erwin, and the discipline would range from anything from being kicked off the bench to being suspended,” Meche said.
Meche says this incident just propels that stereotype that old, white southern judges have racial biases. He says with these allegations brought to light, it is possible future defendants will file motions to have Judge Erwin recused.
“However, he’s considered one of the favorable judges in Baton Rouge. So all things equal, most defendants might prefer him rather than some of the other judges,” Meche said.
Meche says he has never known Erwin to be racist in the courtroom or in the way he spoke to defendants. He says it will take an investigation by the Judiciary Committee to get to the bottom of what happened.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, and I don’t know how much alcohol may have been a factor. That’s also something that the Judiciary Commission is going to probably want to take a look at,” Meche said.
No charges have been filed against Erwin, but the owners of Sammy’s say he is no longer welcome in any of their restaurants. Erwin has not issued a response to the incident.