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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Circuit judge race finishes in the mud

Posted by on Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 8:06 AM


Pulaski and Perry County voters will select a juvenile judge Tuesday. It's a runoff in a race that Little Rock's Patti James very nearly won outright in May. John Hout barely squeaked into the runoff.

I had thought it was a typically quiet campaign between two competent lawyers for a seat that operates mostly outside the public eye. Juvenile proceedings are closed. They are part of a system in which successful handling of young violators can send them to another chance in life unburdened by a public criminal record. You want a judge with a heart in this court, but you also want someone with clear-eyed judgment. There IS, after all, such a thing as a bad kid.

I thought that I detected a false note when I saw Hout campaign with a law-and-order themed campaign sign outside the polls. He is a deputy prosecutor, though.

But then I saw Hout's mailer, shown above. It reads more like something from a candidate for prosecutor than juvenile judge. The boast about police support is unfortunately timed. The police department is under heavy criticism for excessive use of force. Officers must depend on prosecutors to believe their side of events in such encounters.

But the truly inexcusable part of the mailer is the attack on James because she's part of a family law firm that represents criminal defendants. Right to counsel is a bedrock of the American justice system. It's a constitutional right so revered that we even pay for lawyers for those who can't afford their own. Patti James' husband, Bill, takes a lot of such cases and they are the grist for this mailer, which smacks of desperation.

She wrote on her Facebook page:

Here is the mailer that my opponent has mailed out about me, well actually about my husband. I have always been a family attorney, and I've spent my career helping children and families. Dirty dirty dirty.

Hard to disagree.

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