Acting on Act 1 

Acting on Act 1

It looks like the ACLU of Arkansas will file a lawsuit challenging Act 1, the new law that prohibits cohabiting adults from adopting or fostering children.

A press release issued last week by the ACLU says it's heard from “many people who are frightened and worried about how Act 1 might hurt their families.” Presumably, those people are willing to sue.

Director Rita Sklar, who declined to say when or if the organization would file suit, said the ACLU wants to hear from as “many [affected families] as there are out there,” adding the organization would like to act quickly to overturn the law. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

The ACLU would like to hear from families who may be forced to give up foster children now in their care; families who wish unmarried relatives with partners to be able to adopt their children; children in state care who need foster or adoptive homes, and families who wish to adopt or foster children but will now be prohibited.

To contact the ACLU, e-mail arkansasfamilies@aclu.org or call 212-519-7835.


Part-time judge?

Newly-elected district judge Mark Leverett has requested an advisory opinion from the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee on whether or not he can continue to serve as a part-time paid public defender in Sheridan while serving his term on the environmental court. 

David Stewart, the director of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission says that the three-member committee should release the opinion by the end of this week. 

Leverett contends the district judge position is a “part-time position under the law,” but Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore disagrees.

“It is intended to be a full-time position and the salary is commensurate with that,” Moore says. 

The annual salary for a district judge is $134,292, with estimated benefits such as health coverage and retirement totaling an additional $30,899.25. 

“I think the challenges that we have from a code standpoint are significant and I think that we need to be addressing those full-time,” Moore said.  Moore said he hopes the city will become more “proactive” in enforcing the current code.

Asked if working as a part-time defender would interfere with his work as a district judge, Leverett said his first priority would be the court.

“I haven't been the judge so I don't know the caseload,” Leverett says.  “What I'm doing is trying to pre-emptively find out from the commission if there is a violation, and if there is, it's a no-brainer.  I'm not going to do it.”


Court costs

New judge Leverett also is working on another proposal that could cost the cash-strapped city money. He apparently wants to hire a current employee in his legal practice as a court staff member, but he grew irritated at our line of questioning about his idea and we couldn't pin down all the details. City Manager Moore said the court already has a staff. He said there might be a long-vacant court position, one of 190 authorized jobs unfilled throughout city government. Should Leverett wish to add someone to existing payroll, rather than replace an existing employee with his employee, Moore said he'd consider the request like any other.

It might be worth noting that Leverett knows how to bargain with government agencies. It's experience that also could serve him well in a court that hears landlord issues. In a series of three leases dating back to 2006, Leverett's law firm has leased more than 17,000 square feet in its building at 1501 Main Street to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services for $233,148 a year.




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