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 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.
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