Appeal could scuttle 16th Judicial District judge’s race _lowres

Carolyn Deal

The 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed a petition Wednesday to block New Iberia attorney Carolyn Deal from running for judge on Nov. 4, citing records that show she doesn’t meet the minimum qualification of having practiced law in the state for at least eight years.

Deal, who was first licensed to practice law in October 2007, would not meet the experience requirements under state law for district judges until October 2015, according to the petition.

“She should know it. She is a candidate for judge,” Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars said.

A hearing on the challenge to her candidacy is set for Oct. 24.

Deal is seeking the Division H seat in the 16th Judicial District, which covers Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.

She faces incumbent Lori A. Landry and lawyer Alicia Johnson Butler.

Cedars said Deal likely knew of the requirement that judge candidates have eight years’ law practice in the state because the local paper in New Iberia, The Daily Iberian, wrote about the potential problem with her candidacy over the weekend.

“She is well aware of the constitutional provision at issue,” Cedars said. “It was clear to us that she was fully cognizant of the issue.”

Deal could not be reached for comment. Two messages left at the office number listed on candidacy application were not returned Wednesday.

The state election code generally allows for challenges to a candidate only within seven days after the close of qualifying for an election, a deadline that has already passed.

But the state Supreme Court ruled in a case last year that the election code’s seven-day limit does not always apply to challenges based on candidacy requirements enshrined in the state’s constitution, especially if the information about a candidate’s lack of qualifications was not known until after the seven-day window.

The petition filed Wednesday states the District Attorney’s Office did not bring the challenge earlier because the office did not learn about the question of Deal’s qualifications until this month and that any time constraints for a challenge do not apply because the experience requirement for district judges is in the state constitution.