A judge is set to decide Monday whether eligibility questions will keep Lafayette attorney Vanessa Anseman out of the race for an open seat on the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor filed a petition this week alleging Anseman does not meet the requirement of having been admitted to the practice of law for at least 10 years.
Anseman, one of three Republicans in the race, became a lawyer in October 2003. However, questions have been raised about whether she meets the 10-year minimum for appeals court candidates because she lost her eligibility to practice for about three years after not keeping up with bar association dues and paperwork when she took time off to care for her family.
Taylor cited an appeals court case from 1992 in which a panel of judges found that periods of ineligibility should not be included when determining whether a judicial candidate meets the constitutional standards set for the minimum number of years of being admitted to the practice of law.
The case turned on the meaning of "eligible" versus "admitted," and the appeals court panel was not unanimous in its decision.
Dissenting judges argued that the suspended lawyer whose candidacy was at issue in that case should have still been considered "admitted" to the practice of law when determining whether he met the qualifications.
Any lack of clarity could be in Anseman's favor, because past court cases generally call for resolving legal ambiguities in favor of the candidate whose qualifications are being challenged.
Taylor said he brought the challenge after receiving a complaint about Anseman's candidacy from Krotz Springs attorney Vyrona Wiltz.
The district attorney said the law requires him to take action if he believes the complaint has merit.
"I felt like I was mandated to do this," Taylor said. "I am not committed to anyone in this race. ... This is a deal where we say, 'When in doubt, do the right thing.'"
Regardless of the outcome of Monday's court hearing, Anseman's name will appear on the ballot, said Louisiana Secretary of State spokeswoman Meg Casper.
She said voting machines have already been programmed for early voting, which begins Saturday, and it is too late to remove her name from the March 25 ballot.
"There is no way to change it," Casper said.
Early voting starts Saturday, March 11, and ends March 18 for the March 25 election. The ele…
Taylor said he that if the judge strikes Anseman's candidacy, any votes cast for her simply would not count.
The hearing is set for 1 p.m. Monday before state Judge Alonzo Harris.
Anseman could not be reached for comment on Friday.
She is joined in the race by two other Lafayette attorneys, Candyce Perret and Susan Theall.
They are running to fill the unexpired term of Jimmy Genovese, who won a seat on the state Supreme Court last year.
Anseman and Theall are scheduled to debate at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Perret declined an invitation to attend.
The debate, which is open to the public, will be held in the Louisiane Room of the Student Union.
The Acadiana Press Club, the UL-Lafayette chapter of Society of Professional Journalists and the Louisiana professional chapter of SPJ are co-sponsoring the debate.
The 3rd Court of Appeal encompasses 21 parishes and is based in Lake Charles. This election is for District 3 of the 3rd Circuit, which encompasses Acadia, Allen, Evangeline, Lafayette, Iberia, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes.