Three Republican women seeking 3rd Circuit seat

by Mike Stagg

Full-time mommy/yoga instructor, allegations of fraudulent medical billing, Joe Castille. The race could be wild.

THREES ARE WILD: From left, Vanessa Anseman, Susan Theall and Candyce Perret

[Editor's Note: Candidate Theall has clarified to The IND that she did not read directly from the court documents and transcripts when she spoke to the Lafayette Trial Lawyers Association last week, though she confirms that she had in her possession the court documents, which she had pored over in preparation for the meeting. This story has been corrected to reflect that misunderstanding between the reporter and Theall.]

With Justice Jimmy Genovese having taken his spot on the Louisiana Supreme Court, the race to fill his seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeal is on, and it cold be a bruising battle — even by standards set in recent Louisiana judicial elections.

Candyce Perret, Susan Theall and Vanessa Waguespack Anseman filed qualifying papers on successive days last week for the March 25 special election, setting the field of three Republican women seeking Genovese’s unexpired term. Genovese's former Division B seat covers Acadia, Allen, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes; all three women live in Lafayette.

Perret, an Avoyelles Parish native, is the wife of Lafayette businessman Hunter Perret and the daughter-in-law of respected attorney and former head of the Louisiana Board of Ethics Hank Perret. Perret’s campaign ran a half-page newspaper ad announcing her candidacy, burnished with the names of more than 140 people she says have endorsed her, including Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras, Democratic state Sens. Eric Lafleur and Gerald Boudreaux, Republican state Reps. Stuart Bishop and Dustin Miller, and Trent Brignac and Bo Duhe, district attorneys from the 13th and 16th judicial district courts, respectively. Those same people (some are couples, making the list much longer) also are listed on her website’s endorsements page.

The impressive list gave Perret’s candidacy an air of inevitability.

Theall, the former 15th Judicial District Family Court judge, though, sent tremors through the legal community when she spoke on Monday, Jan. 9, at a meeting of the Lafayette Trial Lawyers Association. Sourcing court documents and transcripts of cases involving Hunter Perret’s Louisiana Specialty Institute and allegations of fraudulent medical billing by the firm, Theall declared her intention to run to defend her profession.

According to a 2008 medical industry story announcing its affiliation with Bayou Medical Management — which provides financing for personal injury attorneys — LSI is a surgical specialty facility that Hunter Perret, identified as a "medical venture capitalist," designed to “cater to attorneys and their clients.”

Finally, defendants have learned that LSI arbitrarily added additional charges to the actual bills of Stelly's medical providers on a routine basis and then billed the charges as its own. — allegations in attorney Ian MacDonald's 2013 motion seeking to have medical expenses billed by Hunter Perret's company thrown out of court**

The cases Theall referenced to her peers are from the 15th and 16th judicial district courts. It’s unclear whether any of the cases remain open.

Theall discussed a 2013 motion in a traffic accident case in Vermilion Parish where insurance defense attorney Ian MacDonald of Jones Walker moved to have the court throw out medical expenses billed by LSI in the case. The bills cited in MacDonald’s motion, which The IND has obtained, covered medical services ostensibly provided to plaintiff Audrey J. Stelly by 18 institutions and medical professionals in the treatment of injuries Stelly suffered in the motor vehicle accident.

“Since LSI’s submission of the bills,” MacDonald wrote, “Defendants have learned that some or all of the aforementioned providers of services to [the plaintiff] have no connection with LSI.”

MacDonald, in his motion, stated that one of the doctors whose services were included in the charges submitted in the LSI billing confirmed that he had no affiliation or contractual relationship with LSI. "He has no explanation why his services were billed through LSI," the attorney wrote. Another doctor included in the LSI billing, according to MacDonald’s motion, denied having assisted on a surgery “as indicated in LSI’s billing.”

MacDonald continued: "Finally, defendants have learned that LSI arbitrarily added additional charges to the actual bills of Stelly's medical providers on a routine basis and then billed the charges as its own."

And attorney MacDonald concluded: "LSI's bills represent nothing more than a misrepresentation of its involvement in Stelly's treatment and an attempt to profiteer."

The judge’s ruling in favor of MacDonald’s motion in that 2013 case barred the LSI billing from consideration in the case. The ruling in that case subsequently became part of a 2011 St. Martin Parish personal injury case in the 16th Judicial District Court. That case went to trial in 2014.

Theall says she cited the transcript of Hunter Perret’s testimony in that case during which he was questioned by corporate defense attorney Bryan Scofield of Scofield & Rivera on medical billing for treatments of injuries connected to that case.

As in the case handled by MacDonald, court records show that the issue boiled down to the accuracy of medical records and LSI’s billing for them, including some of the same medical providers from in the earlier case.

Theall tells The IND she also referenced one former LSI physician who confirmed in court testimony that he went to the U.S. Attorney and the FBI about unauthorized use of his electronic signature by LSI. In another 2013 sworn affidavit, a different physician declared that he “did not personally see the patient. I did not personally provide any medical treatment or services to the patient. Further, I did not provide any opinions to help treat the patient.”

In a telephone interview, Theall says that testimony puts Candyce Perret, who served of counsel at LSI, at the center of an operation Theall believes undermines public confidence in the legal profession.

Theall says she only got into the race after 15th Judicial District Court Judge John Trahan decided not to run. She says that’s when she started hearing more about LSI’s questionable medical billing. LSI is still operating at 501 W. St. Mary Blvd.

In her campaign literature, Candyce Perret says she is general counsel and co-owner, along with her husband, of The Perret Group, which specializes in real estate, health care and oil and gas. In response the Theall’s remarks, she issued the following statement to The IND:

I’m glad to respond to questions anyone has about my husband’s company, including the facts of these cases that originated before I came on board. I’m disappointed any candidate would lead with attacks before even qualifying as a candidate, and I hope this is not the kind of campaign we can expect. Our voters deserve better. I intend to run on my qualifications as an attorney with diverse legal experience, small business owner and former city prosecutor with backing from law enforcement.

Vanessa Anseman’s LinkedIn profile describes her as a “Full Time Mother, Community Volunteer and Attorney.” She’s also been a yoga instructor at River Ranch’s City Club since 2012. The sometime attorney’s entry in the race (she lists her most recent legal employment as a seven-year stint at Liskow & Lewis that ended in 2013) came late Friday afternoon and is fraught with potential intrigue.

Her husband, Norman "Skeet" Anseman III, is a partner in Jones Walker’s Lafayette office, which is headed by Ian MacDonald. Jones Walker started making a bigger name for itself in the Lafayette market in 2008 when it merged with Perret Doise, a law firm originally co-founded by Hank Perret, Candyce Perret’s father-in-law. (Perret had left the firm about two years before the merger, and it had been renamed Longman Russo).

In case you’re not yet convinced just how ugly this race is going to be (and not to bury what could very well have been the lede of this story), local political consultant Joe Castille is working for the Anseman campaign.