Judge rules Monday that emails should be available for Lafayette detectives to review _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Parish sheriff-elect Mark Garber

The judge in the divorce of Sheriff-elect Mark Garber and Rachel Garber said Friday he never sealed the case files, despite the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court’s Office’s insistence last week that a judge had sealed the records in the 2015 version of Garber v. Garber.

Judge David Blanchet also said in court papers released Friday that Rachel Garber had withdrawn her request to seal the documents in the case she filed Monday, a little over a week after Mark Garber won the election for Lafayette Parish sheriff.

Rachel Garber canceled her request after Blanchet held a short talk with the Garbers’ attorneys on Thursday, Blanchet said in court papers.

The papers, along with Rachel Garber’s divorce petition, were released to The Acadiana Advocate Friday after the newspaper issued a public records request.

The documents made clearer what Rachel and Mark Garber wanted: “… that this case be sealed and the names of the parties not be released under any circumstances” except to those involved, Rachel Garber’s attorney Richard Mere wrote.

The petition also states that “publishing this petition might cause (Mark Garber) professional injury” because he is an attorney. The four-page petition does not contain allegations of abuse or infidelity.

Mere did not immediately return a call late Friday afternoon.

Blanchet said he was away from Lafayette for most of last week, holding court in the other 15th District parishes of Vermilion and Acadia, and was not able to deal with the Garber case until Thursday, after the 15th District’s other family court judge, Charlie Fitzgerald, had recused himself. In backing away from the Garber divorce, Fitzgerald wrote that his children attend school with the Garbers’ children, and that Mark and Rachel Garber are friends with the Fitzgeralds.

In its public records request, The Acadiana Advocate also asked for access to two other divorce petitions that Mark and Rachel Garber filed against each other in 2013. The Clerk’s Office Friday said those court cases, which didn’t result in divorce, remain sealed. When the 2013 cases were sealed, and why, remains unclear.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that court records of public figures should be open to the public: In 2013, Mark Garber was an assistant district attorney; he will be installed as Lafayette Parish sheriff in July.

Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret was not available for comment Friday.