Morel, Marcel in heated battle for judges

Judge Michele Morel and local attorney Tim Marcel have faced off against each other for the Division E judgeship before, but this November the two come into the race from different perspectives.

Morel, now the incumbent judge after winning that last election by less than 200 votes, said she initially ran for judge based on her familiarity with the law, which includes a father, Harry Morel, who served as the district attorney in St. Charles Parish for 33 years.

She feels her first term has been marked by unbiased and fair rulings.

“The first time I ran, it was because I knew I’d be a good judge,” Morel said. “I’m running for reelection now because I’ve proven I am a good judge.”

Tim Marcel also cites a family heritage in law as among the reasons he’s seeking, for the second time, a spot on the 29th district court. He said his grandfather, who served for approximately 15 years as a district court judge beginning in the late 60s, left a deep impression on him.

“When I found out how important his job was, that was what led me to gravitate towards law,” Marcel said.

When Marcel ran for judge in 2012, however, he said he did not have any sort of name recognition. An attorney for 15 years in the area, he said that though he had come to know many people, he was largely unknown throughout St. Charles Parish. Though Marcel said more people know his name this time around, he made it his first priority to reach out to as many communities as possible.

“I put on a pedometer one of the days I went out. It recorded about 22,000 steps,” he said.

In his quest to meet with members of the community, Marcel said his journey has been tiring, but rewarding, for his wife and two children.

“Last Sunday [Oct.  19] was probably the first time in about two weeks that I was able to go home and eat a meal that my wife cooked,” he said, laughing.

Morel, meanwhile, said that since she works full time as a judge, she cannot campaign during business hours.

“So, yeah, I’m busier, because my free moments are spent campaigning,” she said.

Marcel has enjoyed a very public endorsement this election from both St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel Chaisson and St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne. Though Marcel said it was “a great honor” to receive those endorsements, Morel believes that these relationships will create a problem in the event that Marcel is elected.

“When you have the people arresting for the crimes, the people prosecuting for the crimes and the people handing down the sentencing for the crimes [working together]…there’s no checks and balances,” Morel said.

Morel herself has outraised Marcel in the race. Among her more notable donors are Parish President V.J. St. Pierre, who gave $600 from his campaign fund to the judge last December, and the AFL-CIO.

Morel has also been endorsed by the Republican Women of St. Charles Parish.

“They’ve spoken very loudly that they think I’m a good judge and want me to remain judge,” she said of the contributions she has received.

In the last election, Marcel penned a public letter about  previous drunk driving arrests during college and law school. The attorney said during the 2012 election that he had been sober for 15 years. Morel, however, is quick to note that she is the candidate without any such items on her record.

The two candidates also have judicial projects they hope to complete if elected.

Marcel is excited to push for a new “family court.” He said the court would be established for criminal cases that require legal intervention in child custody. The court, he said, would bring in parents and determine if they require drug abuse counseling or other sentences that could help keep families together.

Morel said she has been working on developing a veteran’s court, as well as continuing to work with juveniles as part of the “Above the Influence” project. This project reaches out to teenagers about various dangers affecting them, including drug use and texting while driving.

Morel, a Republican, has presided over more than 6,000 cases since winning the seat two years ago. She is a graduate of Loyola Law School and operated her own private law firm in Luling for 17 years before she was elected judge.

Marcel, a Democrat, graduated from LSU Law School and has more than 17 years of practice in state and federal courts across southeast Louisiana.

Polling locations open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4 and close at 8 p.m.

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