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Petition filed to remove Foster from judges ballot

Posted: April 2, 2014 - 3:44pm

Judicial candidate Doralee Chandler, opponent for sitting Division 5 Circuit Judge H. G. Foster, has filed petition seeking to strike Foster from May's judges ballot. 

If successful, Chandler's lawsuit filed Wednesday could compel the Secretary of State to de-certify Foster's candidacy and remove him from the May ballot.

The suit cites 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. 

If Foster is elected, he'd take office again Jan. 1, 2015, and he should have been a licensed attorney since Jan. 1, 2009 in order to be eligible, according to the suit. 

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. 

Chandler's petition challenges Foster's eligibility for the ballot and seeks a declaratory judgement be issued to election commissioners in Faulkner, Searcy and Van Buren counties. 

Commissioners of the election boards in the counties are included in the suit in their professional capacities, as being obligated to provide election ballots with the names of "qualified and eligible" candidates.

This is 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 case was first scheduled to be 6th Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, Second Division, but 6th Circuit Judge Mary McGowan, Ninth Division, is now listed with the suit information. 

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