Arkansas Supreme Court opposes judicial appointment over elections | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 16, 2016

Arkansas Supreme Court opposes judicial appointment over elections

Posted By on Fri, Dec 16, 2016 at 1:14 PM

click to enlarge ELECTION BYPRODUCT: The Arkansas Supreme Court, including Justice Courtney Goodson, said today they prefer elections to appointment. But they've remained silent on doing anything about dark money in those campaigns, which bought ads such as this slam on Goodson this year.
  • ELECTION BYPRODUCT: The Arkansas Supreme Court, including Justice Courtney Goodson, said today they prefer elections to appointment. But they've remained silent on doing anything about dark money in those campaigns, which bought ads such as this slam on Goodson this year.

Members of the 2017 Arkansas Supreme Court made official today what I've reported for several months — they prefer continuation of election of Supreme Court justices rather than the Arkansas Bar Association proposal to change to an appointment system.

I'd reported earlier that the Arkansas Judicial Council had voted against the appointment proposal and that the Supreme Court was generally opposed.

The Supreme Court today issued a resolution signed by five of the seven current justices (not including Chief Justice Howard Brill and Justice Paul Danielson) and two who'll take office next year, Chief Justice-elect John Dan Kemp and  Justice-elect Shawn Womack:

Whereas we, the 7 members of the 2017 Arkansas Supreme Court, do hereby unanimously express our support for retaining elections as the method of judicial selection for all Arkansas judges and justices and do hereby oppose any proposal that would move the judicial selection process from elections to appointments in any form

Whereas in taking this position, the members of the 2017 Arkansas Supreme Court do hereby join with the Arkansas Judicial Council, which has also voted unanimously, in support of retaining elections for all Arkansas judges and justices and opposing appointments in any form.

Whereas it is incumbent upon us as members of the state's highest court to speak out on issues impacting the administration of justice. We feel that any effort to move away from our constitutionally provided election process to an appointment system creates several problems. Specifically, it strips the citizens of Arkansas of their long held right to select their members of the state's judiciary, it creates numerous potential conflicts between any governor who would appoint the justices and his executive branch agencies which routinely appear before the courts, and it reduces transparency in the process of selecting the judiciary. Our court was created by people, to serve the people, to uphold the law for the people.

Be it resolved on this 15th day of December, 2016.
Also signing were Justices Karen Baker, Courtney Goodson, Jo Hart, Rhonda Wood and  Robin Wynne.

The Bar Association has recommended appointment by the governor from names submitted by a nominating committee to a single 14-year term. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has indicated support for an appointive system, though not one in which governor was obligated to consider a nominating committee's suggestion. The legislature is expected to be asked to put an appointment system on the ballot in 2016, but its path is even rockier now.

This has always been an uphill fight, beginning with what I believe to be general voter preference for elections. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court resolution is overheated, even a little disingenuous

The proposal wouldn't exactly "strip" any rights, because it would take effect only on a vote of the people. It's also worth noting, relative to criticism of potential conflict of interest for the governor,, that federal courts are stocked at every level by executive appointments and that those judges hear cases involving executive agencies all the time.

I wish the court had spoken so forcefully on campaign issues it dodged yesterday in tweaking the Code of Judicial Conduct. It seems to have continued the fiction that judges don't know their campaign contributors, even as they attend parties and gladhand people who attend to write them checks. It stood embarrassingly silent on the influence of dark money in judicial campaigns. It expanded their ability to accept gifts from friends. It refused to tighten rules on when campaign contributions should figure in a judge's participation in a case. But the matter of judicial appointments could hit them where they live — in their pocketbooks, by potentially shortening tenure and, thus, retirement benefits. Can't have that.

Standing up for elections would have looked a lot better had the court taken steps to clean the sewer of current judicial elections.

UPDATE: Gov. Asa Hutchinson was asked about the statement later. He said it was "unusual," but was otherwise careful in his response. He said it may or may not reach voters.

UPDATE II: Later in the day, the Arkansas Bar Association adopted voted in favor, but short of the 75 percent necessary for approval, for the draft appointment proposal. Both the court's and governor's opposition were mentioned in the discussion. Bar Association President Denise Hoggard said the association might revisit support for an appointment plan during the 2017 legislative session. But, more and more, a change in the system is looking doubtful.

UPDATE III: An employee of the Supreme Court later explained to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the court HAD quietly dropped the prohibition about judges knowing about campaign contributors, so that long-ignored rule is no longer applicable. But they did nothing concrete to curb the influence of money on judicial politics, particularly dark money.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • The long and winding road: No exception yet for 30 Crossing

    The Arkansas highway department's representative on the Metroplan board of directors told the board today that the department is requesting an exception to the planning agency's cap on six lanes for its 30 Crossing project to widen Interstate 30 from six to 10 (and more) lanes.
    • Jun 29, 2016
  • Today in Trump: Obstruction of justice anyone?

    It's the New York Times with the news today. Fired FBI Director James Comey kept notes of his talks with Donald Trump. A memo he wrote in February after a meeting with Trump said the president asked him to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.
    • May 16, 2017
  • Deputy killed, police chief wounded in Sebastian County. Suspect in custody

    40/29 TV reports that two law officers were shot about 7 a.m. today near Hackett in Sebastian County and at mid-afternoon came word that one of them had died. Later in the day a suspect was taken into custody in the shooting.
    • Aug 10, 2016

Most Shared

  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Most Viewed

  • Another Trump propagandist from Arkansas gets blasted

    If Sarah Huckabee Sanders is Donald Trump's Baghdad Barbie, spouting implausible statements in support of her boss in the style of Saddam's Baghdad Bob, then let's make El Dorado native Hogan Gidley Baghdad Ken.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation