Proctor replacement named | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 5, 2010

Proctor replacement named

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Gov. Mike Beebe today appointed Ernest Sanders Jr. of Little Rock to fill the fifth division circuit judge seat vacated when Willard Proctor was removed from the bench. He'll serve until a successor is elected this year.

Sanders was a candidate for district judge in Little Rock in 2008. The appointment could give him a leg up should he seek a judicial seat this year, though he can't run for Proctor's seat. Sanders is black and Proctor's seat is one of two in majority black subdistricts in Pulaski County that will be on the ballot this year on account of Judge Marion Humphrey's announced retirement. (Candidates need not be black to run, but no white has yet been elected in a judicial subdistrict.)

Sanders' appointment might throw a wrinkle in a pending move to shift assignments in Pulaski circuit court. Judge Mary McGowan has asked, and most judges have agreed, to let her take over Proctor's mix of cases, including a criminal docket, as well as his larger staff and courtroom. Proctor's successor -- now Sanders -- would take McGowan's duties. But the plan has not yet been approved by the state Supreme Court. Several have objected to the switch in assignments, notably black lawyers including Wendell Griffen, who argue that a change in assignment plans without participation of the fifth division judge could run afoul of the federal court decree aimed at ending racial discrimination in judicial selection.

Sanders' appointment takes effect immediately.

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