Posted April 3, 2014 04:27 pm - Updated April 3, 2014 05:10 pm

Let's keep it real about the attorney's dues

Let's keep it real folks. Until a few weeks ago, paying attorney's dues late wasn't a big deal. You're late, there's a penalty, you pay a little more, life goes on — and probably the process repeats. 

While your license is on administrative suspension for non-payment, you're not practicing law without a license, or so I'm told by people who I think would know, because once you do pay your administrative suspension is lifted as though it never happened. That's why it doesn't show up as an adverse action when you search an attorney on the Arkansas Judiciary's website. 

But let's keep it real on the other side, too. Like we learned from the downfall of Mike Maggio, judges breathe different moral and ethical air than all the rest of us. Most guys wouldn't lose their jobs for coming across as a misogynistic loutish boor on a remote corner of the internet and pissing off Charlize Theron — but a judge would. 

And, still keeping it real, we know that attorneys live in a world where deadlines matter very much.

Take the statute of limitations: If you've got a client who was wronged and violated in the worst possible way by a defendant who is nothing short of a mustache-twirling villain, and you file a lawsuit to make it right for them one day past the statute of limitations, your client is utterly SOL and it doesn't matter that they had the universe's most righteous claim or that you were five minutes late filing because you had to stop and save several dozen orphans from a burning church on the way to the courthouse.

If you miss a filing deadline you can — and should — be sued for malpractice.

So if we're being real about it, and if we're going to stick with the notion that judges should be held to Nichean Superman standards of personal and professional conduct, we can arrive at a compelling ethical argument — but maybe not a compelling legal argument — that being late on attorney dues is a reason to spoil someone's judicial political prospects.

But is knocking Angie Byrd out of a race, H.G. Foster off the bench and Rhonda Wood from a straight path to the state's highest court the correct result?

There are some brilliant legal minds working on both sides of this question, and like Jay Z I know a little bit. Over the next couple weeks we'll see what the best arguments are for and against. 

In the meantime I'm trying to find an answer to whether the state Supreme Court can take up the question itself nostra sponte, or on its own accord without all the cases going through the trial and appeals process. I'm thinking that it can because the Supreme Court has pretty broad authority to oversee the goings-on of the lower courts (28th Amendment, I think). 

Anyway, we'll see how it works out, and how real we're going to keep it.