As this month's issue of Acadiana Business, out on newsstands today, celebrates the success and contributions of local women, we also mourn the loss of one of our female pioneers: longtime Abbeville attorney and former 15th Judicial District Judge Sue Fontenot. The 62-year-old, a state district judge from 1976 to 1987, lost her battle with cancer early Tuesday.
Fontenot was active in politics for many years in areas not usually explored by women. She ran unsuccessfully against former District Attorney Nathan Stansbury in 1990 and again against District Attorney Mike Harson in 1994. She also ran for the state Senate in 1996.
“She paved the way for people like me, and other women in this business,” says Lafayette attorney Candice Hattan, a close friend and colleague of Fontenot. “It was a different world in Louisiana in the 1970s. Women started the decade not even being able to serve on juries, and ended it on the bench.”
Fontenot made headlines last year when she fought off a man who attacked her in her Mouton Cove home. Police advised people to be on the lookout for someone with eye injuries and bite marks.
Dee Stanley, CAO for Lafayette Consolidated Government, was a reporter and anchor at KLFY when Fontenot was on the bench. “She did not know an 8 to 5 work schedule,” Stanley says. “It was not unusual for her to be in court at midnight, and if she was there the lawyers had better be ready.”
Stanley calls Fontenot a female trailblazer in both politics and law in southwest Louisiana. “She certainly was a pioneer in a world that previously was assigned for men,” Stanley says. “And she functioned very comfortably in that world.”
Fontenot is survived by her brother, Michael Tenes Fontenot of Kaplan, and her children, Jean Paul Perrodin, a Lafayette physical therapist, and Ahna Sagrera, an Abbeville attorney. She was preceeded in death by her brother, James Fontenot, a former state senator, attorney, musician and activist in the French community.