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LR judge visits jail as 'attorney'

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Little Rock District Judge Mark Leverett visited inmates at the Pulaski County Detention Facility at least nine times last year, signing in as “attorney” in a book reserved for lawyers visiting their clients, even though a three-judge panel had earlier said he could not represent criminal defendants in Pulaski County.

Leverett's visits to the jail occurred between Jan. 15, 2009, and June 9, 2009. The instances in which Leverett visited the jail were found in a green book which lawyers are required to sign before visiting a client at the jail. The general public signs a second, larger book. Pulaski County sheriff's office spokesman John Rehrauer said that if a lawyer comes to the jail to visit a friend or relative who he or she is not representing, the attorney is required to sign the book used by the general public, not the book signed by attorneys. Leverett visited a total of seven prisoners at the jail. He visited one inmate, Tyeiska Roberson, four times. He visited another prisoner, David Dill, twice.

Leverett was sworn in as the judge for Little Rock's Third Division District Court on Jan. 1, 2009.  On Dec. 17, 2008, the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee had issued an opinion to Leverett, who had requested information on whether he could represent clients while serving as judge. While noting that part-time district judges are allowed to participate in private practice, the committee noted that this doesn't extend to representing criminal defendants. “The code of judicial conduct prohibits a part-time judge from serving as a deputy prosecuting attorney or representing criminal defendants in the same county,” the committee wrote.

When he was asked about the jail visits, Judge Leverett would say only: “I've already addressed that issue with the Judicial Discipline Committee. I don't have a comment on that.” Then he hung up the phone.

David Sachar is the deputy executive director of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. He said that Leverett hasn't spoken with the JDDC about his visits to the jail. As for whether they might constitute a violation of the earlier opinion by the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Sachar said that the JDDC tries to avoid giving preliminary thoughts on whether something might be a violation until a complaint comes into the office. So far, there hasn't been a complaint filed over Leverett's visits to the jail. Given that, Sachar said, “There's nothing for him to address… Obviously, he asked for an opinion on [whether he could represent criminal defendants] and he's told us that he's not doing that. He asked for an opinion and he said he will abide by the opinion.”

Attempts to reach any of the people Leverett listed himself as visiting at the jail to ask them what business they had with the judge have so far been unsuccessful. It is possible, for example, that he was an attorney for the inmates on civil, rather than criminal matters.

According to the city of Little Rock human resources department, Leverett is paid $138,321 for serving as Third Division District Judge, and city records list the job as a full-time position. Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter said that it should be. “In terms of full-time/part-time, this is one of those things that has gone back and forth,” Carpenter said. “I don't think there's anything in the statute that says it's part-time anymore, but I also don't know of any jobs in the state that pay over $100,000 that are part-time.”

 

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