NEW ORLEANS — Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Laurie White is facing sexual harassment allegations from a court employee, whose attorney also says the employee faced retaliation after lodging a complaint with the court in December.
Our partners at The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate first reported Wednesday that an employee alleged White made a verbal sexual advance and subjected the employee to sexual harassment on more than one occasion, both inside and outside the courthouse at Tulane Avenue and South Broad Street.
White has not responded to questions from WWL-TV, but in a statement to The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate on Wednesday, the judge denied any sexual harassment occurred. She told the newspaper she asked the court to investigate the employee’s claim. She said she is cooperating with the investigation and vowed to stay on the bench.
Attorney Robert Pearson confirmed with WWL-TV that he has been hired by the employee and is requesting a response from the court. Pearson said his client made a complaint to the court two months ago, but has yet to receive a response.
Pearson also said his client was subjected to “retaliation” after reporting the sexual advance. He said he could not elaborate. That may be because such complaints, if formalized, are typically handled by the state Judiciary Commission in a process that must remain secret until they are adjudicated.
Court administrator Rob Kazik confirmed the court has paid a Denham Springs law firm in response to the complaint against White. Kazik did not respond to WWL-TV’s questions about whether the court has hired a private investigator or whether the investigator has interviewed witnesses.
Kazik declined to release any documents showing the substance of the complaint, citing privacy concerns.
The courthouse was rocked by another sexual harassment scandal in 2017 when former Judge Byron C. Williams was accused of groping a clerk who worked for a different judge in the courthouse. The state ended up paying that woman a $52,000 settlement and Williams was suspended for two years before resigning in February 2020.