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Cabin Window: Fate of judge cadidates should be left to voters

Posted: April 19, 2014 - 2:39pm

When is a judge not a judge? According to some, it’s when they are late on paying their license fees. This particular kerfuffle has become quite the molehill over the past few weeks, and several in Faulkner County have been affected.

Both H.G. Foster and Angela Byrd had challenges to their eligibility because of a requirement that a judge has to be a licensed attorney for a certain number of years before taking office (or re-election), and failure to pay one’s monetary dues constituted a suspension. At least one judge in Pulaski County believes that if that suspension happens, you have to start back at the beginning again. That’s simply just not acceptable.

In the case of Byrd, her suspension lasted about 24 hours. Many of us have taken longer to pay our cell phone bills, and we don’t have to start our contract over. Foster’s suspension came because of a miscommunication within his office. When both of these candidates found out that payments needed to be made, they did so with haste.

Fortunately, both are still eligible to run for their respective posts, as is everyone in May’s Faulkner County judicial elections, save for Mike Maggio, who dropped out of his race for other reasons. That’s the way it should be.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who cleared Foster in his race earlier this week, made the point that there is a difference between a truism and the truth. Far too many times, we are looking at rules in place and forgetting about the circumstances that always play a part. If all we needed were rules ... well, then we wouldn’t need judges to interpret them.

And although judicial positions are non-partisan, it certainly seems that these revelations and lawsuits came about as political ploys in order to bring down an opponent and secure a position without a campaign.

That being said, it is interesting to note that so many sitting judges have been shown to go lax on their payments. One would think that if it were so important, there would be more urgency from these judges and lawyers and from the state as well. Shouldn’t there be some form of notification in place? Kind of like a bill?

As long as we can determine the nature of any non-payments or “suspensions,” we should be able to figure out if there are only simple mistakes being made or if there is definite circumventing of the rules. In those cases, suspensions should very well be reviewed and upheld.

But thank goodness sanity prevailed in the majority of these cases, leaving the fate of these candidates in the voters’ hands. That is where it should be.

The Log Cabin Democrat Editorial Board consists of Publisher Zach Ahrens, Editor Ricky Duke, Reporter Joe Lamb and Advertising Director Rhonda Overbey.

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reader 04/23/14 - 08:12 am
I disagree with your assessment

The Arkansas State Constitution is not just a set of rules we 'try' to adhere to. It is the very thing many, including judges, must swear to adhere and uphold. The judges in question should drop from their races until they are qualified according to the Arkansas State Constitution. One weak chain in the link makes the whole chain useless, just like one bad 'O' ring cost us a space shuttle and a crew of astronauts.

reader 04/26/14 - 08:09 am
This issue is critical to future actions of courts

In a few years (maybe months) this issue leaves open a door which convicted persons can appeal their conviction on the basis the judge(s) was not qualified to pass sentencing or conviction constitutionally because of these failures. Should this drag through the courts for a few years, we could end up having hundreds or thousands of convicted persons released if a higher court rules the judges failure to meet constitutional requirements disqualifies them and all of their actions in office, the cost to the state could be tremendous. Even persons who have recently, or in the last few years, been convicted of crimes, could use this issue as a basis for appeal.

This issue should be referred immediately to the highest court in the land, the SCOTUS for a ruling.

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