Oppo research begins even before Supreme Court race starts | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Oppo research begins even before Supreme Court race starts

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 12:27 PM

JUDGE JOHN DAN KEMP
  • JUDGE JOHN DAN KEMP
Circuit Judge John Dan Kemp of Mountain View has been mentioned in recent days as a potential candidate for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, a seat open by retirement in 2016. Associate Justice Courtney Goodson is the only announced candidate.

I called him. He confirmed that he is considering the race, but hasn't made a decision yet. He did say, however, that his potential entry had prompted some interest from as far away as New York. It's telling about where judicial elections are heading in Arkansas.

I heard about Kemp's interest following a recent judicial conference. He is a natural candidate —  a circuit judge since 1987 with municipal judge experience before that. He presides over criminal cases in several counties. 

The judge said he'd already gotten inquiries on his record from out of state. I asked to see them. They are available as a matter of public record. Turns it he received two FOI requests from a New York investigative firm. 

Derrick Wetherell of Brewster, N.Y., asked to see and copy all records pertaining to plea bargains, parole recommendations, correspondence with the parole board, copies of leniency requests and opinions on murder, rape and gun violation convictions. In another letter, he asked for all budget records and expenses, including travel.

Wetherell overlooked a technicality in invoking the FOI. You must be a citizen of Arkansas for the law to apply. He also sought many records from the judge's office that are kept by others, chiefly in the circuit clerk's office.

I called Wetherell. He said he was working for private counsel and information about that was "privileged."

Wetherell's website identifies him as fraud examiner who does private investigation. His clients have included law firms and political organizations that needed "top-notch research and analysis."

A private eye at work on a mere rumor of a candidacy? Shades of the last round of judicial elections, when dark money — its source never identified — poured into ads aimed at tearing down the candidacy of Tim Cullen, defeated for a seat on the court by Justice Robin Wynne. Though no evidence of a connection has ever been offered, some suspicion has fallen on Courtney Goodson's husband, John, a powerful lawyer/lobbyist and member of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. He's contributed his own money and people with whom he's been associated on class action lawsuits have contributed to several judicial races, including those of Justices Wynne, Karen Baker, Jo Hart and Rhonda Wood.

I sent a note to John Goodson asking if he knew anything about Wetherell. No response.

Cullen's work as a legal defense attorney was used against him. Right to counsel is a nicety given little attention in 30-second TV ads. In three decades of Kemp's criminal work, it's hard to imagine you couldn't find a probationer who returned to crime or a victim aggrieved by a case outcome in Kemp's court. It seems a solid bet that if Kemp does run, some dramatic retelling will find its way to a TV screen near you. Without any constitutional niceties attached.

Courtney Goodson had the political advantage of scant experience — mainly as an appellate judge's law clerk — before joining the court. Her Supreme Court claim to fame so far is sitting on an opinion in the same-sex marriage case long enough that the court was able to dodge issuing a ruling.

Kemp declined to comment on the investigative work.

Tags: , , ,


Favorite

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Sabin's subterfuge in the race for mayor has roots in rigged city government

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that an ethics complaint has been filed saying that the exploratory committee Rep. Warwick Sabin created to prepare for a run for Little Rock mayor was a subterfuge to avoid the city ordinance that doesn't allow campaign fundraising to begin until five months before the November 2018 election.Of course it is.
    • Aug 10, 2017
  • Use of solar on the rise in Arkansas

    With a pivotal ruling expected any day now from the Public Service Commission, Kyle Massey at Arkansas Business reports on the increase in Arkansans adding solar generation units on their homes and business.
    • Apr 13, 2018
  • Antwan Phillips wants to make a difference in reducing Little Rock violence

    KARK/Fox 16's push to do something about Little Rock violence includes a spotlight on people trying to make a difference — in this episode Antwan Phillips, a lawyer at Wright, Lindsey and Jennings.
    • Aug 30, 2017

Slideshows

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation