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Story Archives: Retiring vs. working moot point for Traylor
|Retiring vs. working moot point for Traylor|
After State Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor of Winnsboro announced his retirement earlier this spring, his calendar got even heavier and his days longer.
For example, this is his final week in office and one of his appointments is at LSU Thursday to be inducted as an "honorary member" of the school's chapter of the Order of the Coif. Traylor will make a few comments before the top academic graduates of the college's school of law before they graduate.
In July, a day-long celebration is planned by a foundation which operates the Louisiana Justice Hall of Famer and his honor Traylor is the honoree.
On the day the current Louisiana State Legislature opened, Traylor was called before a joint session of the House and Senate where he was given a standing ovation and high praise from officials.
"I was overwhelmed," said Traylor, who has not become accustomed to the professional recognition which had poured his way since he said so long to the highest judicial bench in the state.
The point of praise from peer groups is to recognize contributions Traylor has made, not only to the legal system, per se, because of his work ethic, but to the profession, because of his intense dedication to legal ethics.
So, what does the work hard and follow the rules mantra get you after 24 years as a judge, as it has Chet Traylor?
The answer for Traylor is more work.
It's difficult to estimate how much time Traylor has spent between his Winnsboro home and the French Quarter neighborhood of his New Orleans State Supreme Court office during the past 12 years he has been on the court.
But, he will still spend time on the road, because he is taking on two new positions.
The closest is with a firm in Baton Rouge which specializes in mediation and the farthest is back in New Orleans with a well-known law firm.
"I hope I'll be too busy to think about retirement" said Traylor, who recently paused for an interview in his original Winnsboro law office on Main Street near the Franklin Parish Court House.
Communications technology and innovations such as the internet may allow Traylor to work more out of his Winnsboro office than his state court position allowed.
It is an office he has maintained since he was fresh from law school at Loyola University, one he kept while an assistant district attorney and still later as a District Judge in the Fifth Judicial District.
This is the same office which Traylor fondly recalls as giving him early guilt feelings.
He recalls being, "out on a deer stand when I had just started my law practice," and being worried about the "lack of work back at the office."
Later, the worries reversed themselves, he said.
"I'd be out there with too much to do back at the office and thinking I should be there," instead of pursuing his love of hunting. "It seems like there never could be a happy medium."
Traylor said he has taken a briefcase, along with a firearm, to hunting stations in the past.
"One of the most important things about being on the Supreme Court is reading," he said. "Reading is the most important thing you do."
However, in addition to gathering information by reading, Traylor said there are other chores for a justice which are not easily understood.
"There are many administrative details that justices have to handle," he said. He pointed out the court has responsibility for the ethical conduct of the entire legal profession in the state.
But professional responsibility has never been a problem for Traylor.
He was a State Police trooper while working his way through Northeast Louisiana State College in 1969 and Loyola University in 1974.
"That was the best job," at the time, Traylor said. And, it paved the way for one of Traylor's major contributions to the Louisiana legal system.
As the only former law enforcement officer elected to the State Supreme Court, Traylor questioned the practice of excluding police officers from jury duty.
"I think it was important to share the perspective of a law enforcement person with the other justices," Traylor said.
"You wouldn't automatically exclude an insurance agent from a case about insurance," he said. The practice of keeping policemen off jury trials was suspended, because of Traylor's influence.
Taylor's influence stops way short of inducing feelings of self importance.
Pressed to select highlights from his career, Traylor said, "I loved being a state trooper.
But the greatest thing I've ever done was be elected. It is an honor to be elected to any job and it certainly has been for the jobs they've given me."