Favorite

All over but the judging 

Happy day. Unless there's a runoff somewhere out in the state, judicial elections are over for another year.

I wrote this before polls closed, but could Arkansas have had a better illustration of the folly of electing judges than this year?

The fun started with Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway. He was headed to unopposed election to the Arkansas Court of Appeals until word surfaced that he'd said sexist, bigoted, stupid things — repeatedly — on an LSU fan website. He also revealed confidential matters in his court.

He probably could have dodged that indiscretion but for an even more unseemly happening. With help from Republican political fixer Gilbert Baker, a nursing home jillionaire in Fort Smith pushed a bunch of money into Maggio's campaign at the moment Maggio was preparing to reduce a nursing home damage verdict against the very same man by a cool $4.2 million.

Multiple investigations continue. Maggio, the scourge of welfare deadbeats in his court, is drawing $140,000 from Arkansas taxpayers while suspended from judicial duties. A deadbeat, in other words. An honorable man would resign. But he's been on the teat too long for honest toil.

Judicial races smelled a good bit like an ill-kempt nursing home in more than one race. The same nursing home fat cat poured more than $100,000 into Supreme Court races. Nursing home money accounted for about half the money raised by Rhonda Wood, a Maggio pal from Conway, in her uncontested race for court.

Nursing homes really like Faulkner County. They accounted for $3 of every $4 collected by candidate Doralee Chandler; $20,000 of Judge David Clark's money, and $8,000 of candidate Troy Braswell's money. All these candidates — Maggio, Wood and the Faulkner bunch — also shared campaign tactics. Through the code words "conservative" and "values" and attendance at Republican Party events, candidates aimed to send a message that they are part of Arkansas's growing Republican majority (judges now run as nonpartisans). Vote for them and the implied message is you won't have to worry about a judge who might allow abortion to remain legal or allow a couple of women to marry.

There was some unseemly bickering and trickery in a batch of lawsuits aimed at disqualifying one candidate or the other for failing to pay bar dues in a timely fashion or, in one case, not having practiced law for an extended period before making a race for judge. The Supreme Court — all of them late on their own bar dues at one time or another in their careers — found a dodge around the delinquent payments. They made an even more fanciful dodge around the core question presented in the case of the candidate without active legal service for six years before filing for election. Justice Donald Corbin, departing for retirement at the end of this year, called it like he and a lot of observers saw it — "results oriented" jurisprudence.

When judges are popularly elected, outcomes are too easily influenced by dirty money, and judges as a result are too prone to tailor the law to desired results. See, for dirty money, the uncommonly dishonest campaign raised by an anonymously financed Virginia group that trashed Supreme Court candidate Tim Cullen, an Eagle Scout, as a fan of child pornography. They are also too easily spooked by legislative demagogues. See the Supreme Court's hurry-up stay of Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling on the day the legislature was trying to stoke the fire for a drive to impeach Piazza — or any other judge — who displeases fire breathers like Sen. Jason Rapert.

If we keep electing judges we'll see more of this, not less. Particularly if the slimy tactics produced victories Tuesday.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Rapert joins 'Declaration of Dependence' on God and Bible

    A full page ad in Sunday's New York Times, signed by 21 religious figures, was styled as a "Declaration of Dependence Upon God and His Holy Bible." Sen. Jason Rapert, who's gone full-time into the preaching business, was a signatory along with the likes of faux historian David Barton, Kenneth Copeland, James Dobson and Creflo Dollar.
    • Sep 26, 2016
  • Broadway Bridgeageddon set for Wednesday morning

    The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has scheduled a "closing ceremony" for the Broadway Bridge at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, 45 minutes after the bridge is closed for six months or so of work to tear down the old structure and replace it.
    • Sep 26, 2016
  • Unusual alliance forming against amendment to limit nursing home damages

    Secure Arkansas, a rabid anti-immigrant voice among other issues, has come out against the amendment to make it just about impossible to sue nursing homes, doctors, hospitals and other medical care providers The nursing home lobby-driven amendment would cap damages as low as $250,000 and also place an arbitrary limit on attorney fees.
    • Sep 26, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Little Rock's time

    It is time for Little Rock to demonstrate it is the leading city in Arkansas.
    • Feb 19, 2015
  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • The free lunch legislature

    Is it any wonder the Arkansas legislature thinks you can get something for nothing?
    • Feb 26, 2015

Most Shared

  • Who's harming women?

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is an Arkansas Republican. Thus, like the governor and the Republican-majority legislature, she intends to do everything she can to deny women comprehensive medical care, particularly abortion.
  • New normal

    No two presidential candidates since polling began have run up negatives as massive as those of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who yet won their parties' nominations easily. "What gives?" may be the biggest political mystery in history.
  • Additional rape charges filed against Conway doctor

    Special Prosecutor Jason Barrett has added 11 more victims to two others alleging rape by Dr. Robert Rook of Conway.
  • Big Dam Bridge 100 brings big damn complaint about celebrity rider Hincapie

    The Big Dam Bridge 100 is this weekend and one dedicated biker isn't happy about a celebrity rider, admitted doper George Hincapie.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Who's harming women?

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is an Arkansas Republican. Thus, like the governor and the Republican-majority legislature, she intends to do everything she can to deny women comprehensive medical care, particularly abortion.
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Dope, dice, death

    Unless the Arkansas Supreme Court decides otherwise, voters will have six constitutional amendments and one initiated act to consider in the Nov. 8 election.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Medical marijuana? Yes.

    Proponents of competing medical marijuana proposals have begun sniping at each other. Private cultivation and methods of dispensation are among the arguments.
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Medical marijuana? Yes.

    • I have epilepsy seizures . My mama said I have had them since six mths.old…

    • on September 25, 2016
  • Re: Don't blame trigger warnings

    • It would seem pretty much a given that an instructor, even at the university level,…

    • on September 24, 2016
  • Re: Dope, dice, death

    • At this rate a special master will soon be needed to adjudicate the citations handed…

    • on September 24, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation