Monday, November 9, 2015

Complaint filed over judge's Facebook page photo

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 1:23 PM

click to enlarge goodson.jpg

An anonymous complaint has been sent to the state judicial discipline agency (and copied to the Arkansas Times) over the photo above that appears on chief justice candidate Courtney Goodson's Facebook page.

Goodson, currently an associate justice, is running for the vacancy created by Jim Hannah's retirement. Howard Brill was appointed to serve until a successor could be elected. Judge Dan Kemp has also filed for the seat.

The complaint follows. The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission won't comment, not even to confirm if it has received it.. (UPDATE: David Sachar, executive director of the commission, confirms he has received this complaint and will review it pursuant to rules, but can't otherwise comment.) The complaint alleges that Goodson had violated the good-conduct rule of the ethics code by using a photo from a court activity on her campaign Facebook page and that the other justices in the photo had also "lent the prestige" of their offices to the Goodson campaign by appearing in a photo she posted.

I repeat this not because I think the complainant is onto something. First, it's impossible  for me to see how other justices could be found at fault for a routine photograph from a ceremonial gathering that they had no hand in publishing. The photo itself is unremarkable, standard Facebook fare. Was it a good idea to put such a photo on a campaign page, where it could be viewed as favorable to her candidacy by the others depicted? I think that's a fair question — if not actionable as a disciplinary matter — particularly when you view her other photographs .

In searching for the picture on Facebook, I was struck by the number of photos Goodson posted with Republicans — the late former U.S. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, Reps. Bruce Cozart, Micah Neal and Mike Holcomb and Sens. Bill Sample, Alan Clark, David Sanders and Jeremy Hutchinson and Land Commissioner John Thurston. Republican Sen. Bart Hester has been campaigning for her via Twitter and gubernatorial aides are also backing her campaign. Hester has made some wild claims about her opponent. Hester has also characterized Kemp as a Democrat, a dirty word in today's politics, probably because he ran as a Democrat in the time before judicial elections became non-partisan.

Establishing Republican connections has been a popular (and not praiseworthy) judicial tool in recent years, particularly as the state has trended GOP. Justice Rhonda Wood, for example, used a robocalling Mike Huckabee. The only Democrat I can find in Goodson's Facebook array was Rep. David Whitaker, in Little Rock for constituent Howard Brill's swearing in. It does so happen that a Republican-oriented political consulting firm, Impact Management, will be helping Kemp with his campaign.

More irony: Goodson got elected to first Court of Appeals and then Supreme Court  on the strength of powerful Democratic connections of the family of Mark Henry, the Fayetteville lawyer to whom she was then married. She voted in the Democratic presidential primary of 2008 and in the Democratic general primary that year as well, according to Washington County records. She has not voted in a party primary since. Her current husband has also had strong Democratic connections over the years, but as a lawyer/lobbyist/politico is adept at developing beneficial contacts of all varieties. (Which, yes, does make you wonder if some deals were cut to explain the Republicans flocking to the Goodson candidacy.) I'm guessing Justice Goodson won't be posting photos of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton on her Facebook page.

PS: Does it make it worse to know one of Goodson's campaign consultant is also sending around photos of the candidate with the other justices and bigshot lawyers like partners at the Friday firm and one of their key clients, the Cella family at Oaklawn Park? Why, yes, I believe it does.

See the full complaint below:

click to enlarge courtney_1.jpg
click to enlarge courtney_2.jpg

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