LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -The community is stunned to learn that retired Federal Judge Patricia Minaldi has died at the age of 60, after retiring almost a year ago.
She was a woman who was, at the peak of her career, a shining star. First as a prosecutor, then as a state district judge, and finally ascended to the federal bench in June of 2003. It was a day that she seemed to radiate with confidence and promise for the future.
And that is how many, such as Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier, will remember her.
"Well it's a sad loss to this community. Patti Minaldi was a fantastic prosecutor. She was a great judge, she was a good person, she was very smart, very bright, very beautiful, and had everything going for her. She was a credit to her community and her unfortunate illness has now taken a toll.,” said DeRosier.
Former DA Rick Bryant, who she also worked with, also remembered her impact.
"She was a phenomenal attorney. Bright, intuitive, she worked with me on the Ricky Langley case, the first trial in Baton Rouge. She was a very special woman in an era when men dominated the criminal justice scene. She was one of the first women on the bench,” said Bryant.
Attorney Carla Chrisco knew her both as a friend and as Judge Minaldi.
"I had the privilege of being in front of her in court on a number of occasions and she showed compassion and she showed understanding that not all judges show, and it was always a pleasure to go in front of her,” said Chrisco.
But Minaldi also sought and received a medical retirement after treatment for addiction. She said publicly she was determined to get well.
"I don't think you can ever be cured of it. The only thing you can do is not feed it and I do not intend to feed it ever again in my life," she said in a 2017 interview.
"I'm going to go down fighting with that. I'm going to stay the course and Nietzsche put it correctly, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," she said.
And during her tenure she expressed her concern for the community:
“I want the community to understand that I will take no action that could possibly harm this community or its citizens. I've dedicated 30 years of my life to protecting the community as an assistant D.A. as a state court judge and a federal judge and I’m not going to stop. I just hit a huge bump in the road and I am going to do everything I can to smooth that bump out and I would never put the community at risk because of issues that I have,” she said.
Those who knew and admired her mourn her passing and plan to remember her for the good she did in the community.
"It’s such a tragedy. It’s hard to replace a Patti Minaldi. She was just so talented in everything that she did,” said DeRosier.
"We all have issues in our life and Patti was no exception to that. But whenever she was on the bench, whenever she was in the courtroom, she was always superb," said Bryant.
Like many, Chrisco would remember her as the woman jogging daily through the streets of Lake Charles at noon.
"You know, when she first came to town I would see her at noon running with the guys from the YMCA. She was the only woman out there and she kept up with them and I don't really think she ever thought of it as a woman's issue. It was a person issue and she was right there, she did her job professionally and people admired her, and I don't think there's anybody who could say a cross word about her," said Chrisco.
And so, ends a life that many will agree was remarkable in many ways and ended far too soon.
Minaldi’ s next of kin has been notified. Johnson’s funeral home is handling services which will be announced in the coming days.