Louisiana’s top legal ethicist this week tells The Independent that Vanessa Anseman is not eligible to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeal because she does not have the minimum 10 years of legal practice the Louisiana Constitution requires for appellate court judges.
Loyola University College of Law professor Dane Ciolino, considered by many to be Louisiana’s top legal ethicist, says the timing of those certifications of ineligibility means Anseman does not meet the minimum professional requirement to serve as an appellate court judge.
§24. Judges; Qualifications“It’s fairly clear that she’s not eligible because she has not been admitted to practice for the required 10 years,” Ciolino explains in a follow-up call with the paper. “Periods of ineligibility do not count toward the 10-year requirement.”
Section 24.(A) A judge of the supreme court, a court of appeal, district court, family court, parish court, or court having solely juvenile jurisdiction shall have been domiciled in the respective district, circuit, or parish for one year preceding election and shall have been admitted to the practice of law in the state for at least the number of years specified as follows:
(1) For the supreme court or a court of appeals - ten years.
Vanessa Anseman disputes Ciolino’s opinion, attributing questions about her eligibility to “politics.”
Ciolino says he’s surprised that Anseman’s candidacy was not challenged by one of her opponents. When informed that the primary election is March 25 and the runoff (if needed) April 29, Ciolino says he does not believe Anseman would be eligible to serve if elected, despite that she regained her eligibility to practice on Jan. 13.
Ciolino serves as the A. R. Christovich Distinguished Professor of Law at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where his teaching interests include professional responsibility, evidence, advocacy and criminal law. He is the editor of the weblog “Louisiana Legal Ethics” and the 2017 book Louisiana Legal Ethics: Standards and Commentary.
Since joining the faculty at Loyola, Ciolino has served as reporter to the Louisiana State Bar Association Ethics 2000 Committee, as chairman of a Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board Hearing Committee, as chairman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana Lawyer Disciplinary Committee, as general counsel for the City of New Orleans Ethics Review Board, and as a member of various Louisiana State Bar Association committees (including the Professionalism Committee, the Lawyer & Judicial Codes of Conduct Committee and the Ethics Advisory Service Committee).
Anseman was admitted to the Louisiana Bar on Oct. 10, 2003, according to the Louisiana State Bar Association. In a meeting with the editorial board of The Independent and this writer last week, she said she walked away from her law career one month short of making partner at Liskow & Lewis primarily to care for her ailing father. Her LinkedIn page lists 2013 as her last year at the firm.
In a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon to clarify graduation dates from LSU and LSU’s Paul Hebert Law Center, Anseman tells this reporter that she left Liskow & Lewis in September 2012 (not 2013, as her LinkedIn profile suggests). She worked for three years at Jones Walker’s New Orleans office after getting admitted to the bar and later moved to Lafayette, joining Liskow & Lewis in 2006. Leaving the firm in 2012 means that she has nine years of active practice, not the required 10 years.
Anseman believes the time period of her ineligibility to practice is not an issue, maintaining she meets the requirement by having been admitted to the bar more than 10 years ago. To prove her point, she sent via text message the same article and section of the Louisiana Constitution cited by Ciolino.
The problem for Anseman is that when she walked away from the practice, she failed to pay her dues and participate in mandatory continuing legal education classes. Loretta Larsen, executive director of the LSBA, says Anseman was certified as ineligible to practice law on three separate occasions, all relating to failure to address administrative and professional responsibilities needed to maintain eligibility to practice law.
“Any one of these certifications of ineligibility meant that she was ineligible to practice law,” Larsen says.
Anseman only apparently decided to seek to regain her eligibility once she decided to run for the seat.
According to the LSBA’s Larsen, Anseman paid her dues and a Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board assessment on Jan. 9. She also filed a trust account registration form on that day. She attended CLE classes that week and was declared eligible on Jan. 13, the final day of qualifying for the Third Circuit Court seat.
As part of the effort to determine who is right — Ciolino or Anseman — on the question of eligibility to serve, The Independent contacted the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Judicial Administrators Office. Deputy Administrator Valerie Willard says the issue of eligibility is a matter of law that is beyond the purview of her office.
“We are not allowed to give opinions on matters of law,” Willard says. “Ultimately, this would be a matter settled in court.”
Willard referred The Independent to the Supreme Court’s Law Library to seek any case law on similar matters. As of press time, the Law Library Reference Desk had not responded to our phone call.