Women today enjoy different career options, some go into easily recognized positions as teachers, doctors, accountants, etc., while some fill a more unique position. As a Deputy Judicial Administrator, Renee Hatch-Aguilar is one such woman.
A graduate of Immaculata High School in 1989, she worked for Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for 10 years through earning a bachelor’s degree from Holy Cross College and graduating from Loyola Law School.
“After graduating from Loyola Law and being admitted to the bar, I “hung my shingle” in the 400 block of Huey P. Long Avenue in Gretna in 2004. Hurricane Katrina damaged my building and scattered my clients and for the next several years, I worked a combination of private practice and public service with the Jefferson Parish Attorney’s Office,” Renee said.
“In 2016 the opportunity to shift from active practice to court administration presented itself, and I was hired as the Deputy Judicial Administrator for the 24th Judicial Court (JDC). Returning to the General Government Complex at 200 Derbigny Street in Gretna was like coming home.
Six years later, according to some of the judges and people she works with, Renee is a rock-star!
“The 24th Judicial Court is one of the, if not THE, largest general jurisdiction courts in the state, both in terms of the number of judges and the number of civil filings and criminal cases and jury trials. It’s a court of general jurisdiction, meaning almost anything can be filed and tried there,” Renee
“The court has 97 employees. There are 16 judges, three commissioners and four hearing officers. The court has several Specialty Treatment Court programs, including Drug Treatment Court, DWI Treatment Court, Misdemeanor Probation Court and special programs for Veterans Treatment Court. The court also has a drug screening lab and a collections and probation department.”
There are 16 judges on the 24th Judicial District Court who are elected into office by Jefferson Parish voters for a term of six years. The judges elect one of the 16 to act as the Chief Judge who serves for two years. The current Chief Judge is Judge Nancy Miller who oversees the day-to-day operations of the court, presides over judges meetings and is in charge of committee assignments of the other judges.
“The best part of the job is working with those dedicated employees, and also with our partners: the Clerk of Court, District Attorney, Public Defender, the Jefferson Parish Council and Administration, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and Gretna Police Department, City of Gretna officials and our many other partners,” Renee said.
When questioned about Renee, one of her judges, Judge Raylyn Beevers said, “Renee is an asset to our judicial system in Jefferson Parish. Many people do not realize that her job extends well beyond working with the District Judges. She works closely with Juvenile and Parish Courts to keep us informed. We must be easy to work with because she is always smiling!”
“Before I worked for the court, I was familiar with the public-facing side of the court. Now I know the behind-the-scenes facts, that the Court, a separate branch of government, is a big business. There are many statutes and regulations to keep track of, and bills to watch in the legislature. There are reporting requirements to meet and relationships to maintain,” Renee said.
“When I was hired by the 24th JDC, the requirement that the administrator be a member of the bar was new, but it was part of a growing national trend to have lawyers leading court administration offices. The Louisiana Supreme Court, for example, has several attorneys in their Judicial Administrator’s Office.
“I have found that being a lawyer in this administrative role has benefitted the court not only because I appreciate the workings of the court and the judicial system as a practicing attorney, but also because the role requires significant legal analysis on a wide range of subjects that directly or indirectly affect the services that parties receive when they come to court.
“Although it’s not an active practice of law in terms of representing clients, I am very much involved with legal issues that affect the court. That includes ensuring the court’s compliance with applicable mandates and laws regarding purchasing, training, ethics, and financial reporting. Access to Justice is a growing concern across courts; my office coordinates with other agencies to provide mandated interpretation services and to provide information to self-represented litigants. A matter requiring more of my attention lately has been following recent legislation and court cases regarding court costs, fines, and fees, court funding, and justice reinvestment,” Renee said.
Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer said, “It has been my pleasure to work alongside Renee since her appointment as the 24th JDC’s judicial administrator. She and I have collaborated on various crucial justice-system projects. Since she assumed her position, the 24th JDC and the Clerk of Court’s Office have forged a really solid partnership, which is crucial to an effective, responsive justice system.”
Renee and her husband of 28 years, Ike Aguilar III have two daughters. Their oldest daughter, Ariel Aguilar Barker uses her business degree at Ave Maria University in Florida where her husband, Brandon, is in law school. Their younger daughter, Starla Aguilar just finished her freshman year at ULL.
Tragedy struck the family 20 years ago on May 4, 2002 with the death of their two month old son, Ike Augilar IV from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.) It was a terrible time for the grieving mom, Renee, who was in the middle of law school at the time.
Renee’s tightknit family are eagerly awaiting the birth of Ariel’s baby, the first grandchild in the family! Renee considers being a mother as her most important job ever and will soon add grandmother to her already very impressive resume.