Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Julie Baxter Payer worked with Papillion for two years after she graduated law school, and can recall how thoroughly she prepared for cases.
“Every time he went into a hearing he was better prepared than anyone else,” she said Monday. “And because of that and because of his demeanor, I always saw Darrell treated with the highest respect, from the other lawyers, from the bench, from the staff.”
Papillion, 54, did not return calls seeking comment.
He grew up in the rural St. Landry Parish community of Swords, between Eunice and Opelousas. Not understanding racial differences as a kindergartener, Papillion was scolded for not self-identifying as Black, Papillion said in a March 2022 Louisiana State Bar Foundation oral history. It wasn’t until later that day that his parents explained race to him.
A voracious reader, Papillion said he knocked out 100 books one summer. As a teenager he worked in the parish courthouse and city hall in Opelousas, watching how lawyers and judges operate. Because Papillion spoke French, he was also an early morning disc jockey at KEUN radio station in Eunice.
He started at LSU-Eunice because his mother was concerned about “being so far away” in Baton Rouge if he went to LSU, he said. Eventually Papillion was able to convince his family that he’d be okay 88 miles east at LSU’s main campus. He graduated from LSU, then crossed Highland Road to attend law school.
After receiving his law degree from the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Papillion began working in August 1994 as a law clerk for Louisiana Supreme Court Associate Justice Catherine D. Kimball. It was there, reading appellate records and helping to write opinions, that Papillion said he honed the craft of legal writing and how