N EW IBERIA — Two separate court challenges to the Nov. 4 re-election of 16th Judicial District Judge Lori Landry were dismissed Monday.
Candidates Carolyn Deal and Alisia Johnson Butler, both of whom ran against Landry and lost, filed petitions Thursday contesting Landry’s victory in a voting district that covers portions of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.
Butler alleged voters in several precincts received incorrect ballots that did not include the correct judge’s race, while voters in other precincts were allowed to vote in the judge’s race even though they do not live within the district.
Sixteenth Judicial District Judge Vincent Borne dismissed Butler’s lawsuit after her attorney, Ike Spears, acknowledged he could not prove enough questionable votes to cast doubt on the outcome of the race, a requirement under state law when seeking a new election.
Landry won with 57 percent of the vote, taking 6,594 votes to Butler’s 3,874 and Deal’s 1,077.
Landry’s attorney, Ferdinand Valteau III, said he saw no evidence of problems at the polls on Nov. 4.
“None of that stuff happened, and they didn’t offer any proof,” he said. “We are glad this suit is over, and it never should have been brought to begin with.”
Spears said he believes he could have made a case for a new election given a few more days, but legal challenges to political races face tight time constraints.
The Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections, received no complaints about irregularities in the race, agency spokeswoman Meg Casper said.
Deal’s petition alleged her chances at the polls were hurt by publicity and confusion over an attempt by the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to keep her off the ballot.
Sixteenth Judicial District Judge Keith Comeaux rejected her challenge, saying allegations of bad publicity tied to the legal wrangling were not enough to invalidate Landry’s victory.
“There is no basis to have a new election,” Comeaux said.
The District Attorney’s Office filed a petition to block Deal from running for judge, arguing she didn’t meet the state constitution’s requirement of having practiced law in the state for at least eight years.
Deal argued she should be subject to an older five-year requirement.
A constitutional amendment in 2006 upped the judicial candidacy requirement from five years to eight years. The amendment went into effect in 2007, the year Deal became an attorney.
The case was not resolved before the election, and the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ruled the issue moot on Nov. 5 because Deal ran and lost.
Deal then appealed to the state Supreme Court, which declined to review the case.
Comeaux said the state Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case upheld the initial ruling before the election that she did not meet the qualifications to be a state district judge.
The judge also ordered Deal to pay $2,500 in sanctions for naming the District Attorney’s Office in her lawsuit challenging the election.
Comeaux said the District Attorney’s Office, which has no oversight or control over elections, should never have been a party to the lawsuit.