Judge Soileau passes away, is fondly remembered
The second person to serve as judge in Division B of the 13th Judicial District Court for Evangeline Parish passed away on Monday, December 14, at the age of 87.
Judge Audley Gaynor Soileau was sworn in as judge in 1991 and replaced Judge L.O. Fusilier. At the same time, Preston Aucoin was sworn as District Judge for Division A, J. Willam Pucheu (Soileau’s brother-in-law) was sworn as district attorney, Donald Launey took the oath of office as city court judge, and Judge J. Burton Foret took the oath of office as a member of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
Pursuant to state law, Soileau was forced to retire as judge in 2002 when he turned 70 years old.
Sitting judge in Division B, the honorable Chuck West, recalled what it was like practicing law before Judge Soileau. “I always enjoyed practicing in front of Gaynor,” he said. “He was extremely dedicated, always here, and was very knowledgable of the law.”
Judge West continued, “We’re not supposed to make judgments based on public clamor or the flavor of the day, and Gaynor never did worry about that. He followed what the law said. He was not a very political person.”
According to Judge West, Judge Soileau set a tradition in Division B that was continued by his successor on the bench, Tom Fuselier.
“I’m trying to uphold the same traditions,” said Judge West. “Gaynor didn’t talk a lot and did his job. Tom was like that. They had very few words. They just did their job and did it with as few words as possible.”
Both Judge West and the honorable Judge Gary Ortego in Division A recalled how helpful Judge Soileau was when they were young lawyers and when they first took the bench in 2015.
“Gaynor Soileau was among the earlier generation of lawyers when I and several others in the early 1980s came out,” said Judge Ortego. “In those days, the tradition was the older lawyers, like Gaynor, would help the younger lawyers on technical problems and issues. It’s a tremendous loss nor only for the legal field but for the parish and for his family.”
Judge Ortego described Judge Soileau as being “a highly respected lawyer, a highly respected judge, and a good man.”
Even when he left the bench, Judge Soileau remained active in the parish bar association and lending his advice to younger lawyers.
Judge Ortego’s court reporter Janice Johnson worked for Judge Soileau for 20 years in the law office and for 12 years in the judge’s office.
“He was a wonderful boss,” Johnson said. “He taught me a lot of things.”
One way of teaching Johnson was playing, what she called, paper chase with the legal pad.
As she explained, “He’d put the basic information and give it to me. I had to figure it out and give it back to him. He’d make the corrections and would say that’s the only way I was going to learn.”
Johnson concluded, “He was also a great friend, We had a lot of good times together.”