LAFAYETTE — The results of a 16th Judicial District judicial race in Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes may not be final when votes are counted Tuesday.
Carolyn Deal’s candidacy for the Division H judgeship, which has been challenged, judicially ruled on and appellately questioned, has thrown the race into flux. With the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision last week to delay and review a district judge’s order that Deal withdraw from the race, she remains a candidate whose votes will be registered Tuesday.
“It has cost me,” Deal said Monday, “but I trust in God.”
The 3rd Circuit will hear Deal’s arguments Thursday in Lake Charles.
The District Attorney’s Office, meanwhile, will wait until after election results Tuesday before deciding on whether to mount another legal challenge to Deal’s candidacy, Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars said Monday. Cedars sued Deal on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office.
Deal, a plaintiff’s attorney, is running against Division H incumbent Judge Lori Landry and Alisia Johnson Butler.
Whether the votes for Deal will count depends on what’s decided in court.
On Oct. 24, district Judge Keith Comeaux ordered Deal to withdraw from the race for constitutional reasons. Comeaux agreed with Cedars’ argument that the Louisiana constitution requires an attorney to have been admitted to the bar for eight years before qualifying to run for judge. Deal became a Louisiana attorney on Oct. 29, 2007, and qualified to run for judge in August. In calendar time, Deal was well short of what the constitution requires, Cedars said.
Cedars also said Deal could not rely on Louisiana’s Election Code provision that candidates must be notified within seven days of a problem with their candidacy. Cedars cited a 2013 Louisiana Supreme Court case that pitted a constitutional mandate against an election code requirement. The court ruled the constitution trumps election laws.
Deal said she’s not relying on the seven-day notification rule to make her case.
“Mine is constitution versus constitution,” she said Monday.
Deal said the 3rd Circuit agreed to quickly hear her case based on what the constitution contained when she became a lawyer in 2007. 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.
On Monday, Deal said she was “grandfathered” into the five-year requirement.
Most of the 3rd Circuit — the vote was 5-4 Thursday — agreed with enough of Deal’s argument to at least grant her a hearing.
The four-judge minority said in a dissent that the constitution’s eight-year rule was clear, and that Deal had not met the requirement.
Cedars said that if either of the two other candidates — Landry or Butler — receives more than half of the votes Tuesday, then Deal’s appeal is moot and the District Attorney’s Office would not further pursue disqualifying Deal.
Deal’s name would have remained on the ballot even if the 3rd Circuit had not halted Comeaux’s order, but her votes would not have been counted.
Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, said Deal was always a candidate because elections officials were never notified otherwise.