Lawsuits to remove judicial candidates gain steam

Angela Byrd was late because of a snow day, H.G. Foster thought somebody else had taken care of it, and now Rhonda Wood has released her reason for paying her attorney dues late.

 

“On February 1, 2008, I made a good faith attempt to pay my license fee in a timely manner,” Wood wrote in a press release sent out this afternoon by her campaign consultants at Impact Management Group. 

 

“I made a clerical error and my timely check was for the wrong amount, $100 instead of $200.  As soon as I was notified of my error, I corrected it and paid the remaining amount. Unfortunately, this was on March 6th, three days after the license fee deadline that year of March 3rd.  I was then notified I needed to pay a late fee of $100, which I immediately paid on March 11th.”

 

There have been lawsuits filed this week to remove Byrd, who is running against sitting Faulkner County Circuit Judge David Clark, and sitting Circuit Judge Foster from the May ballot. The suits argue that the administrative suspensions on attorney licenses for late payment of dues “breaks the chain” of continual status as a licensed attorney.

 

Amendment 80 to the state Constitution requires that candidates for appellate, Circuit and District court judgeships have been licensed attorneys for eight, six and four years, respectively.

 

Foster said in a press release this afternoon that he has “confidence in the favorable application of law to this case” and confidence in his qualifications to remain on the bench, and goes on to say that he is “sorry to say I believe this lawsuit was brought to distract from the issue of my opponent’s acceptance of $20,000 in nursing home money which has been the subject of numerous news stories.”

Impact Management Group also sent out a release on behalf of Doralee Chandler, Foster's challenger for judgeship and the plaintiff in the suit to have him removed from the ballot. "Our campaign believes that Amendment 80 is clear," the release reads.

So far, no such suit has been filed to challenge Wood’s candidacy. Wood is unopposed for the state Supreme Court, and would “walk on” next year just by having her name on the ballot. However, any registered voter could call her legitimacy into question by filing a suit asking the court to compel the Secretary of State and all relevant local election commissioners to remove her name.

 

Any voter may file such a suit for any motivation — including partisan politics in these ostensibly non-partisan elections and old-fashioned spite to spoil a personal rival’s prospects.

 

Little Rock attorney Sam Perroni filed a suit at about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday to remove Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox from the May ballot. Fox’s attorney’s license was suspended for about a month and a half in 2013 for late payment of attorney’s dues.

 

Fox, or his supporters, started the wave of judicial candidate challenges over late dues with a successful lawsuit to remove his challenger, Valerie Bailey, from this year’s ballot.

 

Fox’s candidacy is now in question for the same reason that brought down his opponent — giving the situation the appearance that Fox fired first in an odd mutual assured political destruction plan.

 

Now, that plan has the potential, if the same result is reached in these cases as it was in the Valerie Bailey case, to decimate the state judiciary race by effectively removing every judge who, like Foster and Wood, were late paying their fees in the last few years. 

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