LAKE CHARLES — After a last-minute ruling kept her name on the ballot, Vanessa Anseman lost her bid for a place on the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, Division B.
Unofficial totals from 530 of the 590 precincts in the Daily Advertiser showed that Lafayette attorney Candyce Perret received 16,597 votes in the March 25 election, while former Lafayette Parish Family Court Judge Susan Theall earned 14,849 votes. Anseman garnered 9,058 votes. Two candidates with the most votes in the March 25 election will contend for the open seat in a runoff April 29, The Daily Advertiser reported.
Perret and Theall are vying to replace Jimmy Genovese, who was elected to the Louisiana Supreme Court in November.
In a March 20 ruling, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal determined that Anseman was eligible to run. It came after a lower court ruled that she lacked the required legal experience to run for such a position. The overturning of that decision was rendered in the same Lake Charles-based courtroom she hoped to preside in, according to the Daily Advertiser.
KATC.com reported that the 27th Judicial District Attorney's Office attempted to dismiss its case after the appeals court ruled Anseman had satisfied the threshold of 10 years of practicing law required to run for a spot on the panel.
The ruling vacated an earlier verdict rendered by Judge Alonzo Harris, who upheld the DA's initial challenge and ruled Anseman was not eligible to appear on the ballot based on unresolved issues related to her continuing-education standing.
Loyola University Law Professor Dane Ciolino told the Louisiana Record he was surprised by the change of verdict.
“The law seems very clear to me,” he said. “It stipulates that you’re required to have 10 years of law practicing experience. I understand her argument that she was admitted more than 10 years ago, but that’s not quite the same thing. The logic is simple: The state wants to have judges on the bench that actually have courtroom experience.”
Throughout the process, Anseman maintained she had completed enough continuing-education hours over the period in question to be eligible for a judgeship.
In the wake of the higher court’s decision, Anseman insisted the ruling affirmed she is "110 percent qualified," even though she sounded a bit concerned about what damage the delay in her being ruled eligible for the ballot may have already done to her candidacy. She also hinted that she was convinced the St. Landry district attorney's actions were “politically driven.”
The standard for judges legislation was first introduced in 2006 by former State Rep. Hunter Greene, who recently claimed the intent of the law was never to literally require a decade of legal practice to run for the appeals bench.
The district attorney's office revealed it sought to remove Anseman from the ballot after receiving a complaint by registered voter Vyrona Wiltz over concerns about the candidate not having the requisite time to legally mount a run for the bench.