The following answers were provided by Ellen Creel running for Judicial Court Judge in St. Tammany Parrish:
I have been a practicing attorney dedicating my entire career to serving the citizens of this district since 1996. Over the decades my private civil practice has included representing individuals, families, businesses, public/governmental bodies, police departments and fire departments. That representation has included wills and successions, property law, business formation, buying and selling businesses, advising governmental bodies in matters that have both civil and criminal implications, divorce and family matters, and representing both plaintiffs and defendants in suits for damages. In addition to my private civil practice I have also served as a city prosecutor for 11 years. Thus, the breadth of my experience sets me apart as the candidate best equipped to hear the kinds of cases to be presented to a judge in this division, which is a general jurisdiction seat as opposed to a family court seat.
I have courtroom experience, but also am known for my ability to effectuate a reasonable settlement agreement that is fair to all parties, even in the worst and most hostile of cases. Litigation is expensive and risky for all parties involved. Some issues and cases simply must be tried in the courtroom, and when that is the case I am unafraid to do so. However, the highest percentage of cases across the board in general and in my practice in particular settle prior to trial, saving the litigants money and controlling their risk by leaving them some choice and control in their outcome.
No, I will not maintain a private law practice if elected. Being a district court judge is a full time job and requires dedication. Further, district court judges are prohibited from practicing law privately.
I have owned and operated my own law firm as a sole practitioner. I have always put a premium on working together as a team and ensuring that my employees know they are valued and appreciated for their contributions. “Family first” is a personal and professional mantra that is reflected in our office’s generous policy on paid personal time off.
Part of practicing law is managing litigation in a way that maximizes the client’s dollar. We are vigilant in managing our client’s costs and expenses and have specific practices in place to minimize both court costs and attorney’s fees. In fact, it is not unusual that at the conclusion of a matter a client receives money back from our office as a refund for sums they put on deposit in our trust account in anticipation of what their legal matter would cost because we were able to accomplish all of their goals in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
In addition to managing my own business, I have served for approximately twenty years as President of the Board at the Washington Parish Activity Center/Franklinton Association for Challenged Citizens, a non-profit which provides vocational and social resources to adults with developmental challenges. The center has 77 employees on payroll and provides services to approximately 85 individuals. This is all done on a budget of nearly two million dollars, which must be carefully administered to ensure compliance with ever increasing federal and state mandates during a time when the funding by the federal and state governments continues to decline. Thus, both my business and my charitable work have allowed me to exercise my skills at frugal management of other people’s resources.
The judicial canons prohibit me as a candidate from articulating a position on matters that may come before me as a judge. I can inform you that our district courts have a number of tools available specifically for non-violent offenders, as well as a separate juvenile court, a mental health court, a veterans’ court, and a re-entry court that is the premier program of its kind in the country. The law also allows serious penalties for serious offenders. My years of experience have given me both the temperament and insight to discern between those in need of the court’s assistance and those who pose a risk to our community.
As a judge it is my responsibility to ensure a level playing field for all those who come through the system. Race and ethnicity can often coincide with disparity in socioeconomic resources and environment. Having grown up as the oldest of five children of divorced parents with extremely limited means, I am particularly aware of the limitations imposed by a lack of financial resources. While I cannot change those circumstances and disparities outside the courtroom, I can ensure that in any courtroom for which I am responsible that I bring an attentive ear to hear all sides of the issue, an open mind, and the work ethic to carefully review the record, testimony, and exhibits, all of which are required to ensure a fair result for citizens of all races and ethnicities. As a judge I will also have both the ability and the obligation to safeguard the process and will have zero tolerance for abuse of the system, including litigation tactics with no purpose other than to harass, delay, and bankrupt those with more limited resources.
My reputation for ethics, professionalism, and courtesy is well known throughout our district and legal system. I have never had to defend any ethics complaint before any state bar association. I have never been called to task or reprimanded by a court for inappropriate conduct. I have never been called into court on a request for sanctions against me in this jurisdiction or any other. I will continue to uphold these high standards on the bench, which includes guarding against bigotry of any kind and ensuring fair and impartial treatment of all those appearing in front of me.