A campaign ad being run by the Candyce Perret for Judge Committee was intended to call into question the qualifications of her opponent but instead may end up calling into question the behavior of the Perret campaign.
The Perret ad (view it here), which opponent Susan Theall has responded to on her campaign website, has a woman's voice alleging that in 2013 Theall, who was then serving as a family court judge in the 15th Judicial District (Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes), ignored "evidence of abuse to my children, or reports from their doctor, and awarded joint custody to their abuser."
The Independent was unable to locate the ad on Youtube or Perret's campaign Facebook page; we had to rely on a grainy image of it captured on a TV screen.
Here’s the TV transcript, which identifies the mother as “Sarah”:
When we left my abusive ex-husband I thought our nightmare had ended…then we walked into Susan Theall’s courtroom.
She refused to even look at the evidence of abuse to my children, or reports from their doctor, and awarded joint custody to their abuser.
The abuse continues to this day, and we live in fear because of Susan Theall.
She does not protect children and isn’t fit to ever be a judge again.
When I finally found the courage to leave my abusive ex-husband, I thought me and my children’s nightmare had endedSeveral lawyers who saw the ad contacted The Independent last week, pointing out that stipulated cases indicate levels of agreement on the facts and remedies by the two parties involved. In this case, it was a divorce. A stipulated settlement would indicate that both parties agreed to the final settlement and to the custody arrangements.
Then we walked into Susan Theall’s courtroom.
She refused to even look at the evidence of abuse to my children.
She didn’t want to be bothered with pictures of their bruises or written reports from their doctor.
Instead, Theall awarded joint custody to the man we thought we had escaped.
She wouldn’t even let me go back to our home to get my baby’s crib.
You cannot imagine the helpless feeling as a mother to have to send your children to their abuser every week as they cry and beg you not to go. As they tell you that if they weren’t alive, they wouldn’t have to go to their dad’s anymore.
We live in constant fear every day because of Susan Theall.
Theall says the woman's ex-husband, who is identified in court records as a state trooper, came forward to her after hearing the spots.
We reached out to Perret campaign manager Marie Centanni on Friday via email, asking for a docket number so that the facts of the case could be reviewed. She did not respond. We followed up with a phone call to Centanni Monday, again requesting the docket number and asking if it matched the docket number of a divorce case Theall supporters say is the case in question. Centanni has not responded to either inquiry.
If anything, the stipulated agreement, which the mother "willingly and voluntary" entered into, according to the court document, establishes that the mother got what she was asking for. "She was heard. She wasn't ignored. ... She expressed no objection," says Gay Babin, who represented the woman's ex-husband. Babin notes that the court record confirms Theall suggested a specific licensed psychologist to evaluate the parents and children and even agreed that the parties undergo a more in-depth evaluation called a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which helps psychologists diagnose mental health issues. "I even tried to make [the mother] pay for it, and Susan refused," Babin says, instead ordering the parties to share the cost.
The only hint of any allegation of child abuse would have to be deduced from the mother's request that neither parent be allowed to use corporal punishment on the children. Theall granted the request.
"If this family had/has bad problems, for that I am sympathetic, but I take issue with Perret’s egregious mischaracterization of my actions/responsibility as the Judge in this case," Theall writes on her website.
Pursuant to Section 5 of Supreme Court Rule XXXV, any complaints filed with the Committee shall be confidential until such time as the Committee decides to issue a public statement, the Committee or its Chair decides to dismiss the complaint, or the respondent waives confidentiality, whichever occurs sooner. There are no complaints to disclose regarding the Third Circuit race. We cannot comment regarding the existence (or not) of complaints simply filed that have not reached finality pursuant to Section 5 of Supreme Court Rule XXXV above.
Editorial Director Leslie Turk provided additional reporting on this story.