Michelle Odinet will be the next judge for Division A of Lafayette City Court.

The Republican candidate with firsthand experience working in City Court won the seat with 57% of the vote over Jules Edwards III, a district judge who ran with no party affiliation.

City judges serve six-year terms, and the division A and B seats do not represent geographic regions.

Odinet will take Judge Francie Bouillion's seat. Bouillion, who has held the Division A seat since 1994, is retiring at the end of her term.

Judge Douglas Saloom ran unopposed for the Division B seat. He has held the position since 1995.

City Court is sometimes called the people's court because it is the most common one for Lafayette residents to encounter. It's where most traffic violations, misdemeanor crimes, juvenile cases and small-claims cases are heard.

Odinet, 52, returned to work last fall in City Court for the Lafayette Parish Public Defenders Office after taking time away from the job to raise and homeschool her four children.

Prior to that, she worked as an assistant district attorney in New Orleans and Lafayette, and handled insurance defense cases for a private law firm. 

Odinet said during an October interview that she ran for the judgeship to help others and improve the court.

"Nothing is more rewarding to me than helping people and empowering them to become self-sufficient," Odinet said. "I'm running because I'm currently working in City Court as a public defender, and it's given me a firsthand opportunity to identify areas that are in need of enhancement to help make City Court more efficient and accessible."

Odinet said last month that her priorities for City Court include starting a veterans court program, allowing people to pay fines incrementally online and installing cellphone lockers for those appearing in court.

She said she sees opportunity for intervention for veterans who misstep by connecting them with other local veterans who have assimilated to civilian life successfully. Other opportunities Odinet has identified are primarily for low-income people who oftentimes have to miss work or find child care to contest a traffic ticket in court or set up a payment plan.

Also, she said, many people learn they cannot bring their cellphone in the courtroom only after arriving, and some people don't have the option to return to a vehicle to stash their cell while in court.

"A lot, if not most, of them don't have their own transportation," Odinet said. "They're taking public transit or they're using transportation apps to get to City Court. And they're having to make the decision, 'Do I hide my cellphone in the bushes and hope that it's there when I leave court, or do I just leave court and risk it, maybe get a warrant issued for my arrest?'”


Email Megan Wyatt at mwyatt@theadvocate.com.