A three-way race for Arkansas Supreme Court | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A three-way race for Arkansas Supreme Court

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 9:35 AM

Reliable sources say Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Hixson will file for the Arkansas Supreme Court seat held by Justice Courtney Goodson, who has said she'll be seeking re-election.

UPDATE: He confirmed his candidacy and said he expected to file Thursday. He said he had long had the "itch" to run and finally decided this year was the time. He said he hoped to restore confidence in the Supreme Court, which seems lagging in some quarters. "It needs a little change," he said. He noted he'd only be one justice, but perhaps he could start something that would produce results over time.

Hixson acknowledged the tension around the Supreme Court includes a feud with the Court of Appeals in which staff and workload produced some sharp remarks. Hixson said he'd be "less than candid" if he didn't say he wasn't happy about that.

That would make a three-way race. David Sterling, legal counsel for the Department of Human Services, announced earlier. He's an extreme-right Republican who made an unsuccessful Republican primary race for attorney general against Leslie Rutledge in 2014.

Hixson's biography from court website:

Judge Kenneth S. Hixson was born in Paris, Arkansas in Logan County, the youngest of five children. Growing up, he worked with his father at the coal mines around Paris. He graduated from Paris High School in 1974. He received a B.S. degree in Mathematics from the University of Central Arkansas in 1978 and received a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1982.

Judge Hixson was employed in private practice from 1982 to 1994 in the law firm of Jones & Hixson in Fayetteville. In 1994 he joined P.A.M. Transportation Services, Inc., as its general counsel. In 2004, he reopened his private practice and remained in private practice until he was elected to the Arkansas Court of Appeals effective January 1, 2013. Judge Hixson began his current term January 1, 2015, and it will expire December 31, 2022.

Judge Hixson has been married for 31 years to his wife, Jan, and they have two sons.
Hixson, 61, could be an option for the segment of voters who follow court races and who weren't enthused by the Goodson-Sterling option. Goodson was beaten up by dark money in her race for chief justice two years ago and likely again will suffer from her marital connection to class action lawyer and UA trustee John Goodson. He and friends have spent freely on Supreme Court races. Goodson angered the business community as a justice. After backing her candidacy against John Fogleman she joined decisions corporate interests didn't like. She's also been enmeshed in internal court bickering that has grown so poisonous that the court went to video conferencing rather than meeting together in person.

Sterling touts his Federalist Society, NRA and Christian Legal Society memberships and has been making the round of Republican meetings, the better to identify himself in Republican-run Arkansas for a race that is nominally non-partisan. A recent mailing seeking contributions for his campaign listed a finance committee that included Jackson T. Stephens Jr., heir to the Stephens financial fortune; Lana Bethune, wife of former Congressman Ed Bethune, and Jess Askew, a lawyer who handles cases dear to the Walton Family Foundation's push for charter schools and other damage to the Little Rock School District.

Sterling's announcement, by the way, claims he's an "appointee" of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The chief legal counsel of DHS is NOT a gubernatorial appointee, though the governor did "announce" the hiring and praise Sterling.

Hixson said he hoped out-of-state groups wouldn't get involved in the race. Wishful thinking, I'd guess. Deep-pocket conservative groups are certain to pour cash to defeat supposed "liberal" Courtney Goodson and help a Trump agenda jurist, Sterling.

"I hope Arkansas people, Arkansas money and Arkansas issues decide this race," Hixon said.

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