On March 20, 2023, President Joseph Biden nominated Darrel James Papillion to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to the seat vacated by Judge Carl Barbier, who assumed senior status this year. Mr. Papillion was born and raised in Louisiana and is deeply involved in his communities, local and state. A seasoned plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr. Papillion has spent his career advocating for injured workers, survivors of sex abuse and their families, and fighting voter disenfranchisement.
Darrel Papillion was born in Eunice, Louisiana, in 1968 and grew up in the rural community of St. Landry Parish. He learned about the roles of lawyers and judges while working in the parish courthouse and Opelousas City Hall as a high school student. In 1990, he earned his B.A. from Louisiana State University and A&M College. He earned his J.D. from the Paul M. Herbert Law Center at Louisiana State University in 1994. Mr. Papillion speaks both English and French.
After graduating from law school, Mr. Papillion clerked for Associate Justice Catherine D. Kimball on the Louisiana Supreme Court. He then joined McGlinchey Stafford, PLLC as an associate, representing multinational corporations and insurers in product liability actions. In 1999, Mr. Papillion left to join the firm now known as Walter Papillion Thomas Cullens LLC. There, he focuses on various areas of personal injury and wrongful death law, including sexual abuse litigation and industrial accidents. In 2001, the firm named Mr. Papillion Partner, changing its name to Moore, Walters, Thompson, Thomas, Papillion & Cullens, A.P.L.C., in recognition of the significance of his achievements. In 2013, Mr. Papillion began serving as a mediator with Perry Dampf Dispute Solutions in addition to his work at his firm. In 2020, he was appointed Special Prosecutor for the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office to help the state manage emergency laws passed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to his practice, Mr. Papillion teaches as an adjunct professor at Paul M. Herbert Law Center at Louisiana State University.
The following cases are representative of Mr. Papillion’s legal career:
In English v. Ardoin, Mr. Papillion served as co-counsel for a group of registered voters challenging the composition of Louisiana’s congressional districts for violating both the state and federal constitutions. The plaintiffs alleged that the districts were malapportioned, violating the constitutional requirement of one person, one vote, because of how the population had shifted in the time since the districts were drawn. Further, the plaintiffs held that the state legislature would not be able to reach a consensus on redistricting before the 2022 elections. As such, the plaintiffs requested that the court implement a new redistricting plan if the state legislature failed to enact a redistricting plan before a reasonable date, as set by the court. The Louisiana Secretary of State requested the case be dismissed due to improper venue, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a cause and right of action. After the trial court rejected these requests, the state appealed. Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision as to the right of action but accepted the improper venue claim. The court dismissed the suit without prejudice in 2022.
In Daigrepont v. Exxon Mobil et al., Docket No. C657026 c/w C658372, Sec. 27, brought in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, Mr. Papillion represented a worker who was seriously burned as a result of an isobutane release, explosion, and fire at an Exxon Mobil Refinery. The worker alleged that Exxon Mobil knowingly created the hazard and that his injuries were substantially certain to follow from that hazardous conduct. The trial court judge granted the worker’s motion for partial summary judgement, finding that that the above allegations were true. However, that ruling was later reversed on appeal and sent to trial. Before trial, Mr. Papillion reached a confidential settlement with Exxon Mobil on behalf of his client. Mr. Papillion also represented Mr. Daigrepont in suing a valve manufacturer for liability that contributed to his injury. While the trial judge ruled in favor of the valve manufacturer, the decision was reversed on appeal and remains pending.
Mr. Papillion represented the family of a worker who was killed as well as an injured worker after a pipeline explosion at a Transcontinental Gas Pipe-Line Company’s compressor station in Gainey and Hill v. Furmanite America, Inc. Et al., Docket No. 181057, Thirty-Second Judicial District Court, Parish of Terrebonne, State of Louisiana. Mr. Papillion saw his clients through extensive discovery and investigation to a successful settlement.
Similarly, in Mays v. Chevron Pipeline Co., et al., No. 14-cv-3098 (W.D. La), Mr. Papillion co-represented the widow and children of a contract worker killed in an explosion on a Chevron Pipeline Company’s offshore natural gas platform. Chevron argued that the company should be immune from the lawsuit because the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act applied rather than the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. The court rejected this argument, and the case was tried before a federal jury, who found in favor of Mr. Papillion’s clients. The case was affirmed on appeal.
In Picard et al. V. Kirk Key Interlock Company, LLC, et al., No. 65627, Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Parish of West Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana, Mr. Papillion represented an electrician and his family in seeking compensation after the electrician suffered severe injuries as the result of a faulty switchgear firing during maintenance. The electrician sued the manufacturer of the switchgear and Mr. Papillion engaged in extensive discovery, including multiple depositions. The case was settled prior to trial.
Mr. Papillion handled several cases that arose out of a sex abuse scandal involving Catholic institutions throughout Louisiana. The largest of these cases was John and Jane Doe, individually, and on behalf of their minor children, James Doe and Richard Doe v. Sacred Heart Catholic Schol, Matherne, and the Archdiocese of New Orleans, No. 99-15259, Civil District Court, Parish of New Orleans, State of Louisiana. In these cases, Mr. Papillion represented five boys who were sexually abused at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School and their parents. Their cases, along with 12 others, were consolidated for trial. Ultimately, Mr. Papillion saw the case through to secure a global settlement of multiple claims for the plaintiffs.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Mr. Papillion is well known in Baton Rouge, having received numerous awards for his legal work and expertise. Mr. Papillion was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by the Baton Rouge Business Report and has been named a Louisiana Super Lawyer annually since 2006. From 2013 to 2014, he served as President of the Baton Rouge Bar Association. In 2014, Mr. Papillion was awarded “Alumnus of the Year” by the Louisiana State University’s Black Law Students Association. In 2019, Mr. Papillion was named the Lawyer of the Year in the Baton Rouge area for his work in personal injury litigation by “The Best Lawyers in America.” He also received the Baton Rouge Area Volunteer Activist Award from The Emerge Center and The Emerge Foundation.
Mr. Papillion is a member of the American Bar Association and is deeply involved in the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA). Named one of the Best Lawyers in America every year since 2015, Mr. Papillion was a member of the LSBA House of Delegates from 2016 to 2017. He is the current Co-Chair of the LSBA Continuing Legal Education Committee. Mr. Papillion also served on the board of the Louisiana Bar Foundation, sitting on numerous committees including the Ethics Advisory Committee, the Legislation Committee, and the Rules of Professional Conduct Committee, before serving as president between 2016 and 2017.
Additionally, Mr. Papillion is on the Board of Directors for the Innocence Project of New Orleans and the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. Previously, Mr. Papillion served on the board of Teach for America, South Louisiana Region; the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge; the New Orleans Legal Aid Bureau; the Louisiana Bar Foundation; the Louisiana Association of Justice; the Foundation for Louisiana Public Broadcasting; Friends of Louisiana Public Broadcasting; the National Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity; and the Academy of the Sacred Heart School.