Lafayette attorney Vanessa Waguespack Anseman's bid for a seat on the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal was revived Monday after a clarification about her qualifications for the seat voided an earlier ruling that booted her from the race.
At a Monday hearing in Lake Charles, the same appeals court Anseman seeks to join reversed a ruling last week by St. Landry Parish District Judge Alonzo Harris, who had found she did not meet the legal qualifications for the office.
Anseman said Harris' ruling, which came a day before the start of early voting, forced her to shift focus from her campaign to mounting a legal challenge to stay in the race.
"It's frustrating that it has taken valuable time I had to campaign," she said. "It has caused voter confusion, no doubt, with early voting. I can't dwell on it. I can only move forward."
Harris had ruled Anseman could not run because she had not been admitted to the practice of law for at least 10 years -- a state constitutional requirement for appeals court judges.
Anseman, one of three Republicans in the race, became a lawyer in October 2003.
But the St. Landry Parish District Attorney's office had challenged her candidacy, arguing she was a few weeks shy of the 10-year requirement because she had temporarily lost her eligibility to practice law for letting state bar association dues lapse and not staying current with continuing legal education requirements.
Anseman had taken time off from the profession to care for her family.
The legal arguments at last week's hearing before Harris focused largely on the distinction between the terms "eligible" and "admitted."
The state constitution uses the term "admitted" when spelling out the requirements for appeals court judges.
Anseman had argued 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.
The district attorney's office, 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.
The whole question became moot Monday when Anseman offered documents from the state Supreme Court showing that the eligibility dates at issue in the challenge to her candidacy had been revised and that she meets the 10-year requirement without question.
The state Supreme Court issued a formal verification of her revised eligibility dates on Friday, and St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor said he never would have brought the challenge had the state Supreme Court confirmed the information earlier.
Anseman blamed the challenge on her opponents.
"They truly were using the courts as a weapon against me," she said.
Taylor said he is not taking sides in the race but felt legally obligated to bring the legal challenge to Anseman's candidacy after a resident made a complaint about her qualifications to his office.
"We did not do this for political reasons. This was not done for anything other than the fact that the law compelled me to bring this action," 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 other candidates in the race are Lafayette attorneys Candyce Perret and Susan Theall.
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.