Friday, June 17, 2016

Bar Association favors appointed Supreme Court

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 5:05 PM

A Facebook page entry from lawyer Tim Cullen says the Arkansas Bar Association House of Delegates today endorsed a policy statement calling for appointment, rather than election, of members of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

I have no formal confirmation yet. And I'm also still waiting word on the proposal to clean up judicial campaign finance, particularly with more disclosure. I would think and hope that would have even more support than appointment. The Bar is holding its annual convention in Hot Springs.

Appointment of judges would require a constitutional amendment. The legislature could put one on the ballot in 2018. Some of the campaign finance reform could be achieved by legislation, but the Republican majority legislature has been resistant to it so far. I'm pessimistic about persuading the legislature — much less voters — on appointment. But the ideas has enjoyed some growing support, including from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, whose office would make the appointments should the measure be approved.

Lots of details to be ironed out. For example, the bar also favors that appointments be made from recommendations of a commission, something of a merit selection process.

The organized bar once enjoyed a great deal more respect and influence in the legislature than it does now, in no small part because  more lawyers used to serve. Lawyers still rank higher than bloggers, no doubt.

PS — Tim Cullen? Name ring a bell? He ran a tough race for Supreme Court in 2014 in which he was slandered by dark money advertising that essentially suggested criminals weren't entitled to a legal defense.

This is the full task force report on which several resolutions for the House of Delegates were based.

UPDATE: Cullen tells me all the task force's recommendations were adopted. He said the vote for appointment was roughly 40-18.

Those other resolutions include (and some language was changed in today's discussion): a multipart statement on advertising, including transparency of sources of spending and on-line filing; a statement on judicial characteristics, including non-participation in partisan politics;  a code of election conduct, including a pledge. 

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