Legal dispute over former legislator seeking to run for sheriff | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Legal dispute over former legislator seeking to run for sheriff

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 2:18 PM

JOSH JOHNSTON: Contends his hot check conviction, now expunged, no longer disqualifies him to be Cleburen County sheriff.
  • JOSH JOHNSTON: Contends his hot check conviction, now expunged, no longer disqualifies him to be Cleburen County sheriff.
Another legal round is being fought p in former Republican state Rep. Josh Johnston's effort to run for sheriff of Cleburne County.

Johnston tried to run two years ago, but was barred from the ballot because of his conviction on a misdemeanor hot check conviction in 1995.

Now he's on the ballot again, in a three-way Republican primary. A local Republican police officer, Brian Haile, has again sued to disqualify him. Haile ran unsuccessfuly in 2014, but is not a candidate this year. The case gets tangled. Since the last court challenge, Johnston has had his record expunged under a relatively new state law. In 2014, he wasn't eligible for expungement under the statute by which he was convicted. But the legislature has extended a broad ability to clear a record on completion of a form and good conduct. In November, a circuit judge ruled in Haile's case that the expungement Johnston received could not be contested. But Haile is  appealing. His attorney, Melanie Grayson, argues that the 2014 order disqualifying Johnston, which he did not appeal, was final and permanent.

The Arkansas Supreme Court will hear this, likely on an expedited basis because the primary is March 1. Defendants include local Republican officials, including Cleburne County GOP Chair Julie Feil. Her involvement likely means a special justice will have to be appointed on the case. Feil is administrative assistant to Justice Rhonda Wood.

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