Favorite

All over but the judging 

Happy day. Unless there's a runoff somewhere out in the state, judicial elections are over for another year.

I wrote this before polls closed, but could Arkansas have had a better illustration of the folly of electing judges than this year?

The fun started with Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway. He was headed to unopposed election to the Arkansas Court of Appeals until word surfaced that he'd said sexist, bigoted, stupid things — repeatedly — on an LSU fan website. He also revealed confidential matters in his court.

He probably could have dodged that indiscretion but for an even more unseemly happening. With help from Republican political fixer Gilbert Baker, a nursing home jillionaire in Fort Smith pushed a bunch of money into Maggio's campaign at the moment Maggio was preparing to reduce a nursing home damage verdict against the very same man by a cool $4.2 million.

Multiple investigations continue. Maggio, the scourge of welfare deadbeats in his court, is drawing $140,000 from Arkansas taxpayers while suspended from judicial duties. A deadbeat, in other words. An honorable man would resign. But he's been on the teat too long for honest toil.

Judicial races smelled a good bit like an ill-kempt nursing home in more than one race. The same nursing home fat cat poured more than $100,000 into Supreme Court races. Nursing home money accounted for about half the money raised by Rhonda Wood, a Maggio pal from Conway, in her uncontested race for court.

Nursing homes really like Faulkner County. They accounted for $3 of every $4 collected by candidate Doralee Chandler; $20,000 of Judge David Clark's money, and $8,000 of candidate Troy Braswell's money. All these candidates — Maggio, Wood and the Faulkner bunch — also shared campaign tactics. Through the code words "conservative" and "values" and attendance at Republican Party events, candidates aimed to send a message that they are part of Arkansas's growing Republican majority (judges now run as nonpartisans). Vote for them and the implied message is you won't have to worry about a judge who might allow abortion to remain legal or allow a couple of women to marry.

There was some unseemly bickering and trickery in a batch of lawsuits aimed at disqualifying one candidate or the other for failing to pay bar dues in a timely fashion or, in one case, not having practiced law for an extended period before making a race for judge. The Supreme Court — all of them late on their own bar dues at one time or another in their careers — found a dodge around the delinquent payments. They made an even more fanciful dodge around the core question presented in the case of the candidate without active legal service for six years before filing for election. Justice Donald Corbin, departing for retirement at the end of this year, called it like he and a lot of observers saw it — "results oriented" jurisprudence.

When judges are popularly elected, outcomes are too easily influenced by dirty money, and judges as a result are too prone to tailor the law to desired results. See, for dirty money, the uncommonly dishonest campaign raised by an anonymously financed Virginia group that trashed Supreme Court candidate Tim Cullen, an Eagle Scout, as a fan of child pornography. They are also too easily spooked by legislative demagogues. See the Supreme Court's hurry-up stay of Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling on the day the legislature was trying to stoke the fire for a drive to impeach Piazza — or any other judge — who displeases fire breathers like Sen. Jason Rapert.

If we keep electing judges we'll see more of this, not less. Particularly if the slimy tactics produced victories Tuesday.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • The end of democracy in LR

    The state Board of Education was scheduled to talk this week about the Little Rock School District, under state control for two years because six of its 48 schools failed to meet an arbitrary pass rate on a standardized test.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Internet looting continues

    The 2017 legislative session concluded without passage of a bill to encourage internet merchants to collect and remit taxes on sales in Arkansas, though internet giant Amazon has begun doing so voluntarily.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

  • Forget the hairdo

    As the 2018 races begin to heat up, we see more and more women running for office. And as more women run, we will see more of the seemingly endless critiques of their appearances.
  • O'Reilly's fall

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

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • O'Reilly should run for president. He's already cleared one major hurdle by proving he's a…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Intracity tourism

    • I love being a tourist in my own backyard. One of the advantages of being…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Art bull

    • Well, when the Bull was first put up there, it meant one thing, and that…

    • on April 24, 2017
 

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