Chet D. Traylor
|Chet Derveloy Traylor|
Associate Justice (Place 4) of the Louisiana Supreme Court
January 1, 1997 – May 31, 2009
|Preceded by||Joe Bleich|
|Succeeded by||Marcus R. Clark|
5th Judicial District Court Judge
1985 – 1997
|Preceded by||Sonny N. Stephens|
|Succeeded by||E. Rudolph McIntyre, Jr.|
|Born|| October 12, 1945|
Columbia, Caldwell Parish, Louisiana
|Spouse(s)|| (1) Mary Blake Adams
(2) Peggy Marie McDowell Ellington (died 2009)
|Children|| Therese T. Nagem
Leigh T. Liles
|Residence||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Alma mater|| Caldwell Parish High School
University of Louisiana at Monroe
|Occupation||Attorney; retired judge|
Chet Derveloy Traylor (born October 12, 1945) is a retired associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, who resides in New Orleans. On August 28, 2010, he polled fewer than 10 percent of the ballots cast in a Republican primary against then sitting U.S. Senator David Vitter.
Traylor was born in Columbia in Caldwell Parish, one of five children of Charles Andrew Traylor, I, and the former Bernice Bogan. He graduated in 1963 from Caldwell Parish High School. One of his classmates was future Louisiana Secretary of State Walter Fox McKeithen (1946-2005), son of former Governor John J. McKeithen. Traylor served for two years in the United States Army as a military police investigator. He entered as a private and was discharged as a sergeant. In 1969, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in government from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, then known as Northeast Louisiana University. While at NLU, he was a Louisiana state trooper (Troop F). In 1974, he received his Juris Doctorate degree from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.
From 1975 to 1982, he was an assistant district attorney in Winnsboro in Franklin Parish. He is a former investigator for the Louisiana Department of Justice Organized Crime and Racketeering Unit and a former legal advisor to the Louisiana State Police Narcotics, Detectives and Intelligence units.
In 1985, Traylor was elected to the 5th Judicial District Court, which encompasses Franklin, Richland, and West Carroll parishes. He remained a district judge until January 1, 1997, after his election in 1996 to the Place 4 seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Louisiana Supreme Court
In the nonpartisan blanket primary held on September 21, 1996, Traylor as a Republican unseated the Democrat Joe Bleich of Ruston to win a ten-year term on state Supreme Court. Traylor polled 60,484 votes (53 percent) to Bleich's 53,098 (47 percent). Bleich, a former state representative, had served on the court since 1983.
In 2006, Traylor was unopposed for a second term on the court, but he left the position two and a half years later. Marcus R. Clark, a Calcasieu Parish, native and a state district judge from Monroe, then won a special election in the fall of 2009 to complete Traylor's term, which expired January 1, 2017.
In the 2000 case of State v. Smith, Justice Traylor embraced the view of judicial restraint in authoring the Supreme Court's opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Louisiana "crime-against-nature" statute. Traylor ruled that the state constitution must not be manipulated by transient majorities of the judges because such a view would create a government by judicial fiat, instead of a constitutional system. "Disaffected groups unable to obtain legislative redress need only convince a majority of this court that what they seek is an implicit 'right' afforded by the Louisiana Constitution. Our constitution wisely provides for separation of powers, and authorizes the legislature to make public policy determinations in this area," Traylor said. Traylor said that the state constitution does not protect "immoral acts ... Simply put, commission of what the legislature determines as an immoral act, even if consensual and private, is an injury against society".
In 2007, in Cook v. Cook, Traylor concurred in the majority opinion of the Supreme Court that a mother who exposed her children to her lesbian relationship was not entitled to custody of those children. That same year in State v. Bailey (2007), Traylor concurred with the majority in the so-called Jena 6 case that concluded that a white district attorney in LaSalle Parish should have recused himself from prosecution of the six African American high school students who attacked a white classmate because the DA's past behavior showed an unwillingness to prosecute whites for similar crimes.
In 2008, Traylor wrote a unanimous court opinion that upheld the constitutionality of two state laws giving homeowners until the fall of 2007 to file lawsuits or claims against their insurance companies over damage from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The court noted that the extension was for one year and was limited to those two storms.
2010 U.S. Senate campaign
After the death of his wife Peggy, Traylor relocated from Winnsboro to Monroe to pursue opportunities in the private practice of law. On the last day of qualifying, Traylor announced his challenge to Senator Vitter, who subsequently defeated U.S. Representative Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville in thegeneral election held on November 2, 2010. Meanwhile, state Representative Ernest Wooton, a registered Republican from 2005–2010 and a resident of Belle Chase, re-registered to run as an Independent for the Senate in the general election but received little support. A former sheriff, Wooton pledged to conduct a low-budget campaign from a motor home.
Lev Magruder Dawson (born 1938) of Delhi in Richland Parish, a sweet potato farmer, served as Traylor's Senate campaign manager, a role that he had also filled in the 1996 Supreme Court race. Dawson said that political differences between Traylor and Vitter are comparatively minor but that Traylor opposed an attempt to cap British Petroleum's liability related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Dawson said that Melancon "can bring out more of Vitter's problems. There may be other scandals they are saving for the general election. We fear that if Vitter is nominated, we may end up with a Democratic senator." The weaknesses to which Dawson refers is the 2007 revelation that Vitter was a client of the so-called "D.C. Madam." Coincidentally, Vitter lost his gubernatorial bid in 2015 to Democrat John Bel Edwards, who claimed that his "honor code" is superior to Vitter's character.
Traylor is a founding board member of the Winnsboro Economic Development Foundation. He was formerly a board member of the Winnsboro Lions International and of the Franklin Parish Mental Health Association. He was the first president of Winnsboro Ducks Unlimited. He is a life member of the National Rifle Association and holds affiliation with the Rocky Mountain Conservation Fund. He is a member of the United Methodist denomination. He is an honorary member of the prestigious Order of the Coif.
From his first marriage, Traylor has three married daughters. His second wife, Peggy Marie McDowell (1942–2009), was previously married to state Representative and later state Senator Noble Ellington, of Winnsboro, a cotton broker. Peggy had two sons, Noble Ellington, III, and Ryan Ellington, both of Winnsboro. She is interred at Columbia Hill Cemetery in Columbia.
Traylor's older brother, Charles Traylor, II (1933-2020) was an assistant district attorney for the Louisiana 4th Judicial District and from 1974 to 1997 the city judge of West Monroe.
Peggy Traylor died intestate and her sons, Ryan and Noble Ellington, III, filed suit in June 2010 in Fifth Judicial District Court stating that their stepfather has blocked their attempts to collect information on their mother's estate and to take possession of some of her property.
In August 2010, the Ellington brothers filed a complaint against Traylor with the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, alleging that Chet Traylor failed to appear at a federal court proceeding after he had been subpoenaed to provide a deposition regarding their mother's estate. The brothers claim that Traylor knew that the information that he provided about a scheduling conflict with the court was false and asks the disciplinary board to disbar him.
Noble Ellington said that Traylor was "significantly involved" in his divorce from Peggy, who later married Traylor. Chet Traylor was allegedly involved in a romantic relationship with Denise Lively, the estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington. Lively and Ryan Ellington remain legally married, but both he and Traylor said the Lively-Traylor relationship began while Lively and Ryan Ellington were separated. Traylor began his relationship with Lively a few months after Peggy's death.
- Chet Traylor. OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, September 21, 1996.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, September 30, 2006
- State v. Smith 766 So. 2d 501 (La., 2000)
- Arthur S. Leonard (June 10, 2000). Louisiana Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Sodomy Law. Glapn.com. Retrieved on September 19, 2019.
- Louisiana Supreme Court Rejects Privacy Challenge to Sodomy Law. Queer Resources Directory. Retrieved on July 10, 2010.
- Cook v. Cook 970 So. 2d 960 (La., 2007)
- State v. Bailey 713 So. 2d 588 (La., 2007)
- National Association of Professional Insurance Agents. pianet.com. Retrieved on July 10, 2010; no longer on-line..
- Monroe's Traylor to challenge Vitter. Monroe News-Star (July 10, 2010).
- LSU Law Center: Far More than a Common Law School. law.lsu.edu. Retrieved on July 10, 2010; no longer on-line..
- Obituary of Peggy Marie Traylor. mulhearnfuneralhome.com. Retrieved on July 10, 2010; no longer on-line..
- Obituary of Judge Charles Andrew Traylor, II. The Monroe News-Star (August 9, 2020).
- "Traylor's morality challenged in Peggy Traylor estate dispute," The Monroe News-Star, accessed June 28, 2015; no longer on-line.
- Complaint filed against Traylor: Senate candidate accused of lying to avoid deposition. The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved on August 21, 2010.
- Controversy over Chet Traylor's stepson's wife, Salon.com, July 20, 2010; accessed June 28, 2015; no longer on-line.