"AI" allows people to enter who have formerly released albums or formerly had recording contracts as long as they do not currently have a contract. Joanna was released from Geffen at the beginning of 2008 so she is eligible to audition. This past season, there was sort of a scandal because Carly Smithson released a pop album in 2001 under a record label that was run by Randy Jackson at the time. Several other contestants had recording contracts at one time as well (Kristy Lee Cook was signed with Arista's country division and had even lined up Britney to cameo in her debut video).
As an avid "Idol" fanatic (going to the concert next Thursday...hoping to meet the contestants!) but also an avid Joanna fan, I'm a little bit at odds with this. I want her to be successful and I think her voice is ready-made for "Idol" because she can belt ballads and "Idol" loves those ballads but Joanna really is kind of high profile for the show. I had a big problem with Carly being allowed to compete mainly because of her association with Randy, which I think is a conflict of interest, but Joanna not only had the album, she's had singles on several soundtracks in the past year, plus the one that was on the "Legally Blonde" soundtrack a few years back. If she makes it, she will also have to have a really thick skin because Carly and some of the others suffered a lot of attacks for being ringers and I think the same thing will happen to Joanna when all of her past achievements are publicized. Obviously if she makes it I will dial my little fingers off for her but it should be interesting to see what happens.