Judicial candidates may face problems with suspended law licenses | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 28, 2014

Judicial candidates may face problems with suspended law licenses

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 9:14 AM

Claudia Lauer reports in this morning's paper on judicial candidates with law licenses suspended for failure to pay licensing fees, potentially throwing a wrench in the campaigns of two circuit judges seeking re-election, a prosecuting attorney seeking re-election, and a lawyer running for a circuit judge slot: 

The failures to pay caused a temporary license suspension that could interfere with the lawyers’ bids for elected office under Arkansas law, which requires that circuit court candidates have a valid license and practice law for six consecutive years before they file for office and that prosecuting attorney candidates have a valid license and practice for four years.

Alex Reed, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state’s office, said he has received several calls about the candidates’ status.

“Someone would have to file a challenge in court,” Reed said. “We do not have the power to disqualify or to determine whether a candidate is qualified to run for office. That power rests with the judiciary.”

As of Thursday night, no lawsuits had been filed challenging the qualifications of the four candidates.

The licenses for 19th Judicial District-East Circuit Judge Gerald Kent Crow, 19th Judicial District-West Circuit Judge Tom Smith and Helena-West Helena lawyer Jeanette Whatley, who is seeking a 1st Judicial District Circuit Court seat, were listed as suspended as of March 8, according to the Arkansas Judiciary Department’s records.

Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington paid the overdue license fee online Thursday afternoon after being contacted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was listed in good standing by close of business Thursday.

This is an issue that Blue Hog Report also highlighted regarding Angela Byrd, who is running for circuit judge in Faulkner County. As Blue Hog blogger Matt Campbell noted, in Circuit Judge John Cole's recent ruling disqualifying lawyer Valerie Thompson Bailey from challenging Circuit Judge Tim Fox, Cole stated: 

A suspension is a suspension is suspension. It doesn’t matter if it’s administrative or disciplinary.

In other words, though the situations of Byrd and the others listed above probably amount to minor oversights, Cole's decision arguably suggests that they are disqualified from running.  

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