More judges, more money | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More judges, more money

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Money and judges aren't soon parted. While poring over state judicial campaign contributions, I happened to hear from one of the members of the black legal community who thinks blacks have been getting the short end of the stick on federal appointments from Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. The only two black federal judges in Arkansas currently were Republican appointments, they note.

With four judgeships, two U.S. attorney jobs and two federal marshal jobs available for Democrats under the political spoils system, it's beginning to look like black Arkansans will go 0-8. And, what's more galling to them, one of the white appointees seems likely to be a Texan.

The latest word is that credential review teams are looking at Texas-based federal Magistrate Caroline Craven (she is an Arkansas native) for the western district judgeship from which Harry Barnes of Camden has retired.  Carlton Jones, a black Texarkana lawyer, had undergone review for the position. But the White House has apparently changed direction.


The theory proposed by black lawyers is a simple one: Money talks. Sen. Blanche Lincoln has received significant financial contributions from Texas lawyers, including lawyers in Texarkana (more than $50,000 alone from people related to the firm of Nix, Patterson and Roach). The Texas bar reportedly likes the way Craven has handled class action lawsuits she's been assigned and would like to see her continue on the bench in a more important slot. Many of the Texas lawyers have long records as supporters of Democratic candidates, too, the kind of thing that means Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, might take their calls. Whatever the truth is, Jones has gotten the message that he's not getting the judicial nomination. He's running for prosecuting attorney in Texarkana.

Would a black president committed to affirmative action and a U.S. senator who's never carried a majority of the white vote really risk alienating black voters this difficult year with a clean sweep for white appointees? (Lincoln is standing firm also for Denise Hoggard as the nominee for a remaining seat on the bench in Little Rock, though a number of qualified black lawyers have been suggested.)

Maybe Lincoln's 60th vote to end the filibuster on health reform really did mean a lot to Obama and he's willing to defer to her interests on judicial nominees.

I think it might be interesting to see if Senator Lincoln joins the entourage with First Lady Michelle Obama on her coming visit to UAPB commencement May 8, just a few days before the Democratic primary. A smart Arkansas politician might want to avoid an Obama linkage this political year, but it might be helpful before a primary in reaching a voter segment with reason to be a little sore.


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