Monday, October 10, 2016

Arkansas Supreme Court splits with bar on lawyer ceremony

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2016 at 10:26 AM

click to enlarge front_of_justice_building_5_.jpg

I reported last week
on the draft of an Arkansas Bar Association committee's proposal to choose members of the Arkansas Supreme Court by appointment rather than election. I mentioned that several on the court are not receptive to the idea. More evidence of that is in a letter I received from a lawyer, who I'll protect since he must practice before the court.

The Arkansas Bar Association has participated for years in the official swearing-in ceremony of new attorneys. The president of the Bar usually speaks, the Bar takes photos of the chief justice giving the new attorney his/her license, and sponsors a reception for the new attorneys and family. The ceremony for those who passed in July was last week. Here's the interesting bit — the Bar Association was "dis-invited" from the ceremony. Apparently this was due to the adoption of the report seeking a change in the selection of judges, a position that (probably) a majority of the Court is opposed to and led to the un-inviting. This is a pretty significant blow to collegiality, among other things. There is a fear that the legislature will side with the governor and go to gubernatorial appointment. This divide seems to have the potential of damage to the profession and that is unfortunate.

I asked Denise Hoggard, president of the Arkansas Bar Association, about the report. She said a long custom of participation in a joint ceremony had ended last week, but she said she just viewed the change as a "new opportunity." She said there was more space at the Capitol for family to attend the event Friday and that it was easy for the governor and legislators to drop by.  "It was well attended and well received," she said. Beyond that, she didn't want to comment.

Best I can tell from multiple lawyers is that only one justice attended the reception at the Capitol — Chief Justice Howard Brill, who's serving by appointment to complete the term of the late Jim Hannah.

The Supreme Court's administrative office helped coordinate the event. The new lawyers were advised in a letter of a change in the original plans for a reception at the Supreme Court.

The court doesn't discuss its internal decision making. It might have been the Bar's position on court selection that influenced a departure from custom. It might have been a concern for appearances — the Bar Association is a participant in a lawsuit challenging a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit damages in lawsuits against nursing homes and other health care providers.

But other context includes demonstrations of pettiness by members of the court before — remember when a group of justices joined together to glare at then-Attorney General Dustin McDaniel at a Bar Association speech after he'd made remarks about "results-oriented" decision making?

Internally, too, the court has struggled. A bloc of the court (Justices Courtney Goodson, Jo Hart and Karen Baker) effectively stripped Chief Justice Hannah of some of his administrative authority in vetoing his choice of a new chief clerk. The politicking got so bitter that there was a delay in issuing a Supreme Court order praising Hannah after his death, with Justice Rhonda Wood finishing last in joining with words of praise.

By the way, as to the core issue:

The Bar's Supreme Court selection proposal is to have the governor choose future justices from three names submitted by a nine-member committee — five from the bar, two from the governor and two from legislative leaders. The appointee would serve a single 14-year term. Current justices would be eligible for appointment in the first round of the new process.

That proposal faces a tough uphill battle to reach the ballot as a constitutional amendment. Gov. Asa Hutchinson favors unilateral gubernatorial appointment, with Senate confirmation. A lot of people prefer sticking with election and all the dark money that comes with it.

Tags: , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • UPDATE: Fourth death confirmed in Polk County; suspect identified

    UPDATE: The body of Reilly Scarborough has been found, bringing to four the number of family homicides in Polk County. The nine-year-old was found in woods west of Hatfield. A suspect is in custody.
    • Apr 29, 2017
  • The Saturday open line

    An open line for a Saturday not yet as rainy as predicted, at least everywhere.
    • Apr 29, 2017
  • Baker Kurrus: Opposes Little Rock School District tax proposal

    Baker Kurrus has written a monumental essay explaining why he opposes the proposal in the May 9 special , the Little Rock lawyer and businessman who long served on the Little Rock School Board and spent a year as its superintendent after the state takeover before being fired by Education Commissioner
    • Apr 29, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • State Police issues statement on Jason Rapert 'threats'

    The State Police have issued a minor clarification in what appears to be an effort to soothe an enraged Sen. Jason Rapert, exposed here as overly excited about both a Conway parking lot question from a constituent as well as some inflammatory Internet rhetoric that he's interpreted as a dire threat on his life. State cops took his reports seriously, they say. But in the end, they found nothing actionable.
    • Sep 15, 2015
  • UPDATE: Judge rethinking punishment for attorneys in insurance settlement case

    Judge P.K. Holmes is rethinking whether lawyers deserve punishment in a class action lawsuit against an insurance company abruptly pulled from his court after pending more than a year and then quickly settled in a state court.
    • Jun 24, 2016
  • The plight of the refugees: Dark episodes in Arkansas

    Ernest Dumas reaches into history, some personal, for moments in Arkansas's view of refugees. It was brought to mind by the current crisis in Europe and the political divisions over whether the U.S. should respond to the needs of the displaced.
    • Sep 22, 2015

Most Shared

  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Visit Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation