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Lawrenceburg attorney Marie Hellard has spent the better part of the past two decades representing clients in Family Court. Now she wants to preside over it.
Hellard last week filed a letter of intent to run for Family Court judge in the 53rd Judicial Circuit, which includes Anderson, Shelby and Spencer counties.
Judge John David Myles is the incumbent and has held the position since Jan. 1, 2007.
“It’s time for a change,” Hellard said during a telephone interview. “I would be fair to the people who come before me. I would always consider their positions and be courteous and kind.
“The people who come before you deserve to be treated fairly and equally, and I will be a humble servant of the people.”
Family Court judge is a non-partisan seat, but if there were to be more than two candidates, there would be a primary to determine the two who would face off at the General Election. The filing deadline for other non-partisan positions in next year’s election is August 2014.
A lifelong resident of Lawrenceburg, Hellard, 50, said the bulk of her legal career has been in family law, representing victims of domestic violence, neglect, abuse, along with divorce, dependency and juvenile cases.
She said that experience makes her a strong candidate for the position, but she said her decision to enter the race wasn’t an easy one.
“I’ve been practicing in Family Court for seventeen years, so it’s the next natural step,” Hellard said. “In my youth I really wanted to be a judge, but in my practice I felt I was really helping people and was making a difference in their lives.”
Hellard said she worked through that quandary by speaking with her preacher at Hope Community Church.
“He made me think of things I hadn’t thought of before,” said Hellard, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Kentucky and law degree at the University of Louisville.
“It dawned on me that I could help people [as judge], too, and maybe even reach more people.
“As an attorney, I’m only reaching my clients. As a judge, I can reach every party on every side in all three counties, which made a lot of sense to me.”
That Hellard has almost exclusively practiced family law from her office on Main Street is somewhat of a surprise, being that doing so was never her intent.
“When I was in law school I never really focused on family law and didn’t desire to practice family law,” she said. “But when I started practicing, clients kept coming to me for family law issues.
“That’s where I began and that’s how it has continued. I never really went out and sought those clients. They sought me out.”
She also cited is her experience as Anderson County’s trial commissioner for the past five years.
“[District Court] Judge [Linda] Armstrong asked me to do that,” Hellard said. “You do a lot of emergency custody and domestic violence petitions.”
Asked if that helped prepare her to run for Family Court judge, Hellard said, “Absolutely. That’s something my pastor pointed out… .that some of the resources we have aren’t being utilized.”
Hellard said she and her husband, Allen, have raised three children, including one who was placed in her home that was neglected and abused.
“I was able to see what it was like for them and what they go through,” she said. “It’s tough on those little ones.”
Dealing with those issues, she said, is never easy.
“It’s very, very difficult and takes an emotional toll on you that you can’t imagine,” she said. “But the gratification at the end, if you’ve helped someone through a situation like that is a crowning achievement.
“If you make a difference in the life of even one child, you are victorious.”