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Opponents file suit against Byrd, Foster

Posted: April 2, 2014 - 5:11pm

Judicial candidate Angela Byrd and sitting Circuit Judge H.G. Foster have legal challenges to their candidacy.

Judicial candidate Doralee Chandler, Foster’s opponent for the Fifth Division, filed a petition on Wednesday afternoon seeking to strike Foster from May’s judges ballot on Wednesday. At 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, voter Lonnie Williams filed a suit along the same lines to remove Byrd.

If successful, these lawsuits would compel the Secretary of State to de-certify Foster’s and/or Byrd’s candidacy and remove them from the May ballot

The suits cite Amendment 80 of the Arkansas Constitution, which states Circuit Court judges shall have been licensed attorneys for the state for at least six years immediately preceding the date of assuming office.

Foster’s law license was administratively suspended in 2013 and in additional years due to late payment of his dues. Byrd’s law license was similarly suspended for a single day in March when she paid her dues a day late.

If Foster is elected, he’d take office again Jan. 1, 2015, and he and Byrd should have been licensed attorneys since Jan. 1, 2009, in order to be eligible for election or re-election, according to the suits.

In an earlier interview with the Log Cabin Democrat, Foster said he is current on his dues this year, but was more than two months late paying in 2013.

He said he believed his dues had been taken care of last year but “ill-advisedly did not follow up on it.”

Fearing the lapse would become a “big deal” during election season, he said he secured two letters from the Arkansas Supreme Court showing no adverse action had been taken against him for his lateness.

The Supreme Court Clerk’s office does show suspensions in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, but Foster is paid up on his dues.

Commissioners of the election boards in the counties are included in the suits against Foster and Byrd in their professional capacities, as being obligated to provide election ballots with the names of “qualified and eligible” candidates.

These are the first of the suits filed after reports of a ruling in Pulaski County that disqualified judicial candidate Valerie Bailey in seeking judgeship against sitting Judge Tim Fox.

The implications of that ruling are that if a candidate’s license is suspended in the requisite time, he or she is ineligible for candidacy.

A special judge presided over the case because the candidates were from Pulaski County and any lawsuit to remove a candidate from the ballot is properly held in Pulaski County, because it is essentially a suit against the Secretary of State to de-certify the ballot.

The judge in this Foster’s case was originally to be 6th Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, Second Division, but Piazza recused himself because of personal associations with Foster. The case was reassigned to Judge Mary McGowan. Byrd’s case will be heard by Judge Wendell Griffen, unless he is recused.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb, can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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libertas
173
Points
libertas 04/02/14 - 05:54 pm
1
0
Begs a lot of Questions.....

So, Judge Foster was sitting as a judge when his license was suspended for two months. In other words, he was not licensed to practice law let alone be a judge. What happens to his rulings during the period of time he had no law license, how can a ruling be legal and binding if rendered by someone that was not even licensed to practice law?

The same questions need to be asked about any other sitting judge that didn't think following the rules was important, and, it's just not credible for any lawyer to not know his dues had not been paid.

lachowsj
5031
Points
lachowsj 04/02/14 - 09:35 pm
2
0
Cooler heads

Perhaps cooler heads will prevail on this matter. Amendment 80 of the Arkansas Constitution was an attempt to professionalize the judiciary. Prior to that time, I believe there was no requirement that an elected judge be a licensed attorney at all. I don't think it was ever intended that Amendment 80 would exclude properly trained and licensed attorneys who allowed their registration to lapse through administrative error.

A better approach might be for attorneys who are late with their fees to be notified, assessed a fine, and warned of more dire consequences if the matter is not resolved in, say, 30 days.

libertas
173
Points
libertas 04/03/14 - 08:21 am
1
0
Attorneys are notified

Attorneys are sent a reminder each year and are assessed a fine if they miss the deadline. Having your license lapse for over two months while you are sitting as a judge is nothing to sweep under the rug. Are doctors,nurses, and other health professionals allowed to treat patients with a lapsed license?

Protondecay123
61
Points
Protondecay123 04/03/14 - 09:46 am
1
0
Amendment 80's Purpose

Is clearly being shown. What legal challenges will there be over anything they adjudicated when their license was suspended? There is plenty of notification to renew your law license, about a month to 3 weeks depending on how the mail is routed.

ucantbserious
30303
Points
ucantbserious 04/03/14 - 10:30 am
6
0
Lawyers

It's funny when they sticking it to each other.

Proceed.

Rhonda Overbey
1388
Points
Rhonda Overbey 04/03/14 - 04:02 pm
2
0
UCANTBSERIOUS

BEST.
COMMENT.
EVER.
You just won the Faulkner County judges Battle Royale!

ucantbserious
30303
Points
ucantbserious 04/04/14 - 09:09 am
3
0
YAY!

What's my prize? An guaranteed spot on this year's "Stuck on a Truck"?

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