Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
Payton T. Underwood
Gruff-tempered criminal judge
Payton is an elderly woman with curled but short iron gray hair and a firm jawline with a certain tightness behind its smiles that suggests they are earned rather than freely given. At work, she usually wears a conservative dark skirtsuit underneath her judge’s robes and pearl earrings.
Payton was supposed to be Theodore. ‘Theodore’ wound up her middle name instead after she was born the youngest daughter to a family with four other girls, prompting her exasperated father (who’d long wanted a son to follow in his footsteps as a judge) to declare that “she’d have to do.” There weren’t many female judges in 1947, and there were even fewer in Louisiana, but there were enough for the senior Underwood to hope that his daughter might someday join their ranks.
Payton wanted to be an ADA after passing the bar in 1973, but sexism and a growing family to take care of slowed her career trajectory. She finally achieved that dream in 1980. After her children finished high school, she became the first female judge elected to Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in 1994. She ran for the appellate courts twice, and even harbored ambitions of the Louisiana Supreme Court, but lost both elections. The defeats were disappointing at the time, but in the long run, they ceased to bother her: other women blazed the trail to those higher legal offices and Payton found she preferred the more hands-on nature of criminal cases.
After some two decades on the bench, Payton has a reputation as a severe judge who dislikes waste and has little tolerance for disrespect. She is known to impose “creative” sentences on clients for whom a $200 fee or several more days in jail would be a slap on the wrist, and likewise prefers to sentence the affluent to community service over monetary fines they could easily afford. She only grudgingly relents from jail time, for it is many of those same individuals who’ve helped fund her election campaigns, along with a police force that appreciates her “tough on crime” attitude.
Due to her age, Payton’s last election was the final one for which she was eligible to run. After she retires, she looks forward to spending her remaining years playing with her granddaughter Lilly and her great-granddaughter Lucy, gardening at her old family home in the Lower Garden District, and probably doing some part-time private practice on the side.
Payton has been a respected member of New Orleans’ legal community for 40-some years and knows a variety of lawyers and judges. She sometimes grades exams for the Louisiana State Bar.
Payton is on good terms with many local police, who she’s had cause to work closely with over her long career, and was close to Richard Gettis before his psychotic break and untimely death in late 2015.
Payton also volunteers as an assistant coach and (debate) judge for the debate team at the McGehee School for Girls, her own alma mater. The parents there are grateful for her work.
At work, Payton gets along well with Carson Malveaux, the chief judge for OPCDC, though she takes a dimmer view of Richard Boner’s sense of humor.
Among her immediate family, Payton is closest to her daughter Prudence. She doesn’t approve of the younger woman’s marital situation, but respects her commitment not to simply seek an annulment for a stand-in divorce like so many Catholics do. She talks semi-regularly with her son Stan, who lives beyond the city. She is on non-speaking terms with her daughter Diana since she became pregnant at 17. The pair’s relationship never recovered from the fighting over that.
Among her grandchildren, Payton is most active in the lives of Celia, David, and Lily. She is proud of David for pursuing a legal career and Celia for her running a successful business. She finds less in common with Logan and Sophia, and hasn’t spoken with Isabel since she left Louisiana in 2009. She sees her great-granddaughter Lucy on a semi-regular basis.
Payton is a judge on the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. It’s certainly less prestigious than if she’d succeeded at her ambitions to join the Supreme Court, but her decisions have more immediate impacts on people’s lives. (OPCDC Status •••)
Payton was one of the guest speakers at the McGehee School’s opening assembly whom Amelie Savard listened to. Amelie liked the woman’s speech and wanted to join the school debate team as a result, but ultimately didn’t find the time.
Payton served as Emmett Delacroix’s judge (twice) after he was charged with a variety of criminal offenses. Payton gave him the maximum sentence (death) following his deliberate efforts to antagonize her (also twice) after she had already signed off on his plea deal. The story has since become legendary among New Orleans’ legal community for its sheer stupidity.
Caroline Malveaux-Devillers violated Payton’s mind with her powers as part of an extended scheme to pass the Louisiana Bar Exam without physically attending the day-scheduled event. Payton graded Caroline’s exam and gave her a score of 100%.
Celia met with her grandmother to discuss the terms of the divorce and custody between Diana and Maxen Flores. Though Payton wasn’t able to put Celia’s fears to rest concerning her mother’s finances, she did put in a call to Richard Gettis and told her to contact him once she was ready to report the abuse by her father. Celia called Payton following her visit to the hospital with the news that Maxen had been arrested and set the restraining order motion in process.
Celia met with Payton shortly after Lucy’s birth in 2010 to ask if she would serve as co-trustee to Lucy’s trust fund. She agreed to, but also recommended bringing in a second and younger co-trustee.
Shortly after the shooting of Yvonne Devillers and Sarah Whitney in 2015, Celia met with Payton again to ferret out the truth of her relationship with the cop responsible. Though the judge wasn’t as transparent as Celia would have liked, the pair got in some quality time with Lucy and spent a nice evening together discussing career, family, and lost love.
• 1. (Payton’s parents)
• 2. (Payton’s sister)
• 3. (Natalie’s father) +
Bianca Andrews (b. 1964, d. 1992)
• 4. Natalie Andrews (b. 1992)
• 2. Kathleen Andrews (b. 1942, d. 1973)
• 2. (Payton’s other two sisters)
• 2. Payton T. Underwood (née Andrews) (b. 1947) +
Timothy Underwood (b. 1947, d. 1988)
• 3. Stanton Underwood (b. 1972)
• 3. Diana Flores (née Underwood) (b. 1973) + Maxen Flores (b. 1972)
• 4. Emily Rosure (b. 1988, adopted in 2009 by Diana)
• 4. Celia Flores (b. 1989) + (unknown father)
• 5. Lucy Flores (b. 2010)
• 4. Isabel Flores (b. 1991)
• 4. David Flores (b. 1993)
• 4. Sophia Flores (b. 1994)
• 4. Logan Flores (b. 1997)
• 3. Prudence Bellamy (née Underwood) (b. 1975) + Norland Bellamy (b. 1974)
• 4. Lilly Bellamy (b. 2005)