NEW IBERIA — A district judge on Friday ordered 16th District judicial candidate Carolyn Deal to withdraw from an election underway in early voting.
State District Judge Keith Comeaux sided with arguments made by Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars.
Cedars in court papers and in the Iberia Parish Courthouse on Friday said Deal had not been an attorney for the constitutionally required eight years prior to her qualifying to run for judge on Aug. 21.
Deal was admitted to the Louisiana Bar on Oct. 29, 2007, less that seven years ago and well short of what the Louisiana Constitution mandates.
Deal told Comeaux that the constitution does not specify dates within a year and that counting just the years — all of 2007 through all of 2014 — gives her the required eight years.
Cedars scoffed at Deal’s math. “Judge, a year is a year.”
Deal told Comeaux she planned to appeal his ruling.
The 16th Judicial District covers the parishes of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary. The judicial district in which Deal was a candidate is in parts of all three parishes.
With Deal’s disqualification, the election for Judicial District H has two remaining candidates, incumbent Judge Lori Landry and Alisia Johnson Butler.
After the hearing, an upset Deal said Comeaux’s order to withdraw was a “violation of my constitutional rights of due process.”
Cedars said in court documents filed last week that Deal knew about the constitutional problems her candidacy had and that if the court did not order Deal to withdraw, there was a “potential disenfranchisement” of 16th District voters who cast ballots for Deal, a “non-viable candidate.”
Cedars also pre-empted any argument that Deal might make stating she wasn’t notified in the seven days required by Louisiana’s election code. Cedars referenced the case of former Baldwin Alderman Tony Gibson.
In 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Gibson was ineligible for office because not enough time had elapsed between his release from felony incarceration and his run for office. Gibson argued that the 16th District Attorney’s Office did not notify him within seven days of his qualifying. The Supreme Court said the 15-year rule between getting out of jail and qualifying is enshrined in the constitution and that it trumps the legislatively passed seven-day notice rule.
Cedars said after the hearing Friday that the District Attorney’s Office didn’t know about Deal’s candidacy problem until well after qualifying ended.
All votes cast for Deal since early voting started Oct. 21 will be lost, said Meg Casper, with the Secretary of State’s Office, which has oversight of Louisiana elections.
“And it’s way too late to remove (Deal’s) name from the ballot,” Casper said. She said notices will be placed in the precincts where Judicial District H is on the ballot and that any further votes for Deal also would be discarded.
Early voting for the Nov. 4 election continues until the end of business Tuesday, excluding Sunday.
Elections officials in the three parishes of the 16th District will post notices about Deal’s removal at precincts where District H candidates are on the ballot.
There have been 130 candidates in Louisiana this season who have withdrawn from races for various reasons, about six times more than usual, Casper said.
Some of the candidates have been ordered by a judge to withdraw, Casper said.