LAKE CHARLES — Vanessa Anseman is vying to become the next judge on Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, fueled by a recent ruling from that appellate court that she is eligible to run for the seat.
However, Dane Ciolino, the Alvin R. Christovich Distinguished Professor of Law at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, told the Louisiana Record Anseman does not have the required amount of time of practicing law to be an appellate judge in Louisiana.
On March 20, according to a report by TV station KLFY, the 3rd Circuit ruled in Anseman's favor in an appeal of an earlier decision by a St. Landry Parish judge that Anseman did not have the legal experience that is required to run for the appellate-court seat.
Louisiana State Bar Association online records show that Anseman got admitted to the Bar on Oct. 10, 2003. However, the Independent printed a letter dated Feb. 23, 2017, from Louisiana State Bar Association Executive Director Loretta Larsen that showed the Bar found her to be ineligible to practice law in the state three times in 2013 and once more in 2014. The infractions were for not meeting mandatory continuing-education requirements, failure to pay dues to the Bar, failure to pay assessment to the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board and not filing the required trust-account registration form.
The Independent also reported that Anseman became eligible again to practice law in the state and became qualified to run for the vacant 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal seat on the same day, Jan. 13.
"She was actually sworn into the (Louisiana) Bar more than 10 years ago, but she has not been practicing law for 10 years," Ciolino said. "And to me, that's clearly what the intent of the constitutional provision is, is to assure that anyone who serves on the bench has the requisite experience as a lawyer."
Ciolino believes the original trial court made the right decision by ruling Anseman ineligible to run for the seat.
"And the 3rd Circuit got it wrong," he said. "Ultimately, it's going to be up to the Louisiana Supreme Court to determine whether she has the qualifications to serve."
Anseman told The Independent that because she was admitted to the Bar 10-plus years ago, she is eligible to serve as an appellate judge. She also said that she did not believe that the times when she was not able to practice law in the state are a factor.
Ciolino believes otherwise. The Independent reported that both Ciolino and Anseman used the same provision of the Louisiana Constitution, Article 5, Section 24. That qualification says that a judge for the Supreme Court or appellate court has to have been “admitted to the practice of law in the state” for 10 years.
"I understand her textual argument, but ... to me, the way that I read the Constitution is that it requires 10 years of work as a lawyer," Ciolino said.
Anseman is looking to replace Jimmy Genovese, who was elected to the Louisiana Supreme Court last fall.