A judge on Monday removed Lafayette attorney Vanessa Waguespack Anseman from the race for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, ruling she did not meet the requirement of having been admitted to practice law for at least 10 years.
Anseman vowed an immediate appeal and pledged to push forward in her campaign for the March 25 election.
"We are going to fight this. We are not going to back down," she said.
Regardless of what happens, it is too late to remove Anseman's name from the ballot, but if Monday's ruling stands, any votes she receives will not be counted.
St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor filed a petition last week alleging Anseman does not meet the state constitutional requirement that an appeals court judge must have been admitted to practice law for 10 years.
Anseman, one of three Republicans in the race, became a lawyer in October 2003
But Assistant District Attorney Donald Richard argued Monday that she does not meet the 10-year requirement because she lost her eligibility to practice for about three years after not keeping up with bar association dues and continuing education.
Anseman had taken time off from the profession to care for her dying father and, later, her children.
Under the judge's calculations, Anseman would be about 50 days shy of the 10-year requirement at the time of the March 25 election.
Much of the dispute at Monday's hearing was on the difference between the terms "eligible" and "admitted."
The state constitution uses the term "admitted" when spelling out the requirements for appeals court judges.
Anseman said she remained "admitted" to practice of law since first becoming a lawyer in October 2003, even if there was a period when she was ineligible to practice.
Richard, citing an earlier appeals court case in a similar election dispute, argued the terms "eligible" and "admitted" are interchangeable when considering the qualifications of judicial candidates.
St. Landry Parish Judge Alonzo Harris agreed.
The judge gave Anseman 24 hours to appeal his ruling to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
"I have my brief ready, and we will be filing in the next 24 hours," Anseman said.
A ruling could come quickly, because courts generally give priority to election issues.
Anseman is joined in the race by two other Lafayette attorneys, Candyce Perret and Susan Theall, and she said her opponents are behind the election challenge.
"This is all to derail me, to derail my campaign," she said. "Make no mistake: This is political.
Taylor, the district attorney, said last week that he brought the challenge after receiving a complaint about Anseman's candidacy from Krotz Springs attorney Vyrona Wiltz.
The district attorney said he is not trying to sway the election but believes 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.
The election is to fill the unexpired term of Jimmy Genovese, who won a seat on the state Supreme Court last year.
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.