Orders in the court 

NEIGHBORHOOD SAID 'NO': Cycle Breakers bought the building; the city wouldn't rezone the property.
  • NEIGHBORHOOD SAID 'NO': Cycle Breakers bought the building; the city wouldn't rezone the property.

In 2006, Cycle Breakers Inc., a nonprofit corporation, wrote a check for $70 to Judge Willard Proctor Jr. The memo on the check said the money was reimbursement for “mowing lawn.”

The $70 was not the only remuneration that Proctor, the judge in Pulaski County's Fifth Division circuit court, received from Cycle Breakers Inc. And mowing grass was not all that Proctor did for the corporation.

From 2004 to 2006, he ordered hundreds of defendants who appeared in court before him to be placed on probation. He then further ordered those probationers to attend meetings supervised by Cycle Breakers Inc.

The probationers did not have to pay for the court-ordered meetings, but Proctor allowed the nonprofit corporation to impose fines on them for errors, such as missing a meeting or failing to bring a notebook.

In 2006, Cycle Breakers Inc. reported income of more than $85,000 from such court-approved fines. But that was just a fraction of the money the corporation received from its association with Proctor's court.

Proctor's relationship with Cycle Breakers Inc., a corporation he helped to form, appears to be in conflict with state laws and the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct.

Though questionable parts of that relationship have been documented in recent weeks, though they are currently being investigated further by the State Police, though complaints about the court have been made to the FBI and the IRS, and though Arkansas judges are sworn to avoid conflicts of interest, there's been no notice of any action by the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which oversees the ethical practice of state judges. It could be considering Proctor, but its proceedings remain secret until the commission has found probable cause to consider discipline of a judge.

Proctor still officiates in his court, hands down sentences — and orders offenders to attend meetings sponsored by Cycle Breakers Inc.

One thing that has changed of late, however, is the court's handling of money.

Proctor requires his probationers to pay a probation fee of $40 per month. That money goes to the county. The probation fee in most other state courts is $25 per month.

Last year, when Cycle Breakers Inc. was preparing to buy a building, Proctor issued an order providing that part of each probationer's $40 fee — money that had been going to the county — would now be given to the corporation.

The sudden diversion of funds was made to help the corporation pay an anticipated half-million-dollar mortgage. Last February, Cycle Breakers Inc. obtained a bank loan and purchased the building it wanted.

But within months, state auditors were questioning the legality of Proctor's arrangements for repaying the loan. In response, on Aug. 2, Proctor rescinded his order directing county probation funds to Cycle Breakers Inc. The county now again keeps the probationer's $40 fees.

But, with service on the building debt looming large, Proctor issued a new order on Aug. 16. In a highly unusual move, his court then sent notices to its approximately 1,200 probationers, informing them of the change — and that they would now face an additional fee.

On a page titled “Order Modifying Probation Terms,” that was addressed to each probationer individually, Proctor wrote:

“Starting Aug. 1, you will be required to pay an additional $20 per month to Cycle Breakers Inc. for participation in their quarterly mandatory meetings and other programs ...”

Included with the notification was a form that a probationer could fill out court asking that the new fees be modified. According to the form, Proctor would eliminate the new fee if he was “satisfied that the imposition of an additional $20 per month would pose a financial hardship.”


Speaking of Cycle Breakers Inc., Willard Proctor


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