Judicial Review: Fifty-Nine Sitting Judges With Problematic Suspensions

Fifty-nine.

That’s how many current district, circuit, and Court of Appeals judges have had administrative suspensions for non-payment of annual bar dues within a time-frame that would have made them ineligible during their last campaign, would make them ineligible to run in a judicial election in 2014, and/or would make them ineligible when they are up for reelection, at least based on Judge Cole’s decision in Hulse v. Martin.

Notably, the list includes:

Court of Appeals Judge Rhonda Wood, which we’ve discussed.

Court of Appeals Judge Bill Walmsley, last elected in 2010 and up for re-election in 2018.  Walmsley was administratively suspended in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012.  The first three would have made him ineligible for election in 2010; the 2010 and 2012 suspensions would also make him ineligible if he runs in 2018.

Circuit Judge Annie Hendricks (Sebastian County), up for reelection in 2016, who — despite all the press over this issue — still has not paid her 2014 dues.

District Judges Jeff Conner (Benton County), up for reelection in 2014; Robert Batton (Jacksonville), retiring in 2016; and J.R. “Rusty” Porter (Phillips County), up for reelection in 2016, all of whom only paid their dues in the last few days.

District Judges Ray Bunch (Bentonville), reelection in 2016; Jason Marshall (Lawrence County), reelection in 2016; and John Throesch (Randolph County), none of whom has paid his 2014 dues.

Of the names on the list, one Court of Appeals judge (Wood) and fourteen circuit judges are running for a judge’s seat for which they are arguably ineligible to run.

The circuit judges are Harold Erwin (Newport), Stacey Zimmerman (Fayetteville), Gordon “Mack” McCain (Russellville), Tim Fox (Little Rock), Patti James (Little Rock), Kenny Johnson (Warren), John Putman (Harrison), Gordon Webb (Harrison), Kent Crow (Berryville), Brad Karren (Bentonville), Thomas Smith (Bentonville), H.G. Foster (Conway), Bobby D. McCallister (Benton), and Grisham Phillips (Benton).  And that’s not even counting attorneys such as Angela Byrd, who are not currently on the bench but are running for a seat.

So, where does that leave us?  Honestly, pretty much right back where we started.  To the extent anyone wants to challenge any of these judges, the suit will have to be filed in Pulaski County so that Secretary of State Mark Martin can be a named defendant.  From there, it’s the same analysis — was Judge Cole’s decision correct?

But here’s the thing that I think a lot of people — including Judge H.G. Foster, who filed a petition for writ of quo warranto in the Supreme Court today — are missing: the question is not “does an administrative suspension equal a suspension under the Procedures of the Arkansas Supreme Court Regulating Professional Conduct of Attorneys at Law?”  It is the far more basic question of “is there a difference between being a ‘licensed’ attorney and being able to actively practice law with that license?”

If there is a distinction, then someone is licensed within the meaning of Amendment 80, even if they have an administrative suspension for non-payment of dues.  If there is not, then anything that removes someone’s ability to practice law — even an administrative suspension — also makes them not licensed for purposes of Amendment 80.

That’s it.  That’s the whole question.  All of the other parts — whether Judge Cole was correct, whether Judge Foster is entitled to a writ of quo warranto, whether there is a due-process question involved in an administrative suspension — are secondary to that overarching question.  With any luck, we’ll start to get some of those answered sooner rather than later.

***

The full list of judges with relevant suspensions follows (list accurate as of 4/4/2014):

Attorney Name End of Suspension
Rhonda Wood 3/13/08
Bill Walmsley 4/12/2012
4/15/2010
5/28/2008
5/1/2007
Ann Hudson 5/31/2006
5/2/2005
6/2/2004
5/6/2002
4/26/2001
5/2/2000
David Laser 5/10/2013
Harold Erwin 4/2/2009
Stacey Zimmerman 3/28/2012
Joanna Taylor 4/24/2009
James Moody 3/28/2014
Gordon “Mack” McCain 3/8/2013
Tim Fox 4/16/2013
Chip Welch 3/9/2012
Patricia James 3/18/2010
3/25/2011
Kenny Johnson 3/30/2010
Berlin Jones 4/28/2009
Annie Hendricks 2014 Not Paid
Larry Chandler 3/18/2014
John Putman 3/9/2009
3/10/2010
Gordon Webb 3/18/2009
4/16/2010
J.W. Looney 3/14/2011
3/12/2013
Kent Crow 4/30/2009
4/5/2010
3/28/2014
Brad Karren 4/19/2010
Thomas Smith 3/28/2014
H. G. Foster 3/12/2009
5/4/2011
5/4/2012
5/17/2013
Bobby D. McCallister 4/19/2011
Grisham Phillips 4/19/2010
Will Feland 3/13/2012
Billy Hubbell 3/14/2011
Reid Harrod 5/16/2013
Jeff Conner 4/16/2012
2014 Not Paid
Ray Bunch 5/10/2013
2014 Not Paid
Bruce Anderson 3/21/2012
Michael G. Epley 3/9/2012
Curt Huckabay 3/18/2011
4/11/2012
Steven Peer 5/8/2013
David Reynolds 4/26/2011
Paul Efurd 3/11/2014
Dan Stidham 3/24/2011
Tony Yocom 3/21/2012
Sherry Burnett 5/10/2013
Jessica Steele Gunter 3/27/2012
3/11/2014
John Kearney 4/12/2011
5/10/2013
Jason Marshall 2014 Not Paid
David Rush 3/6/2012
Joe O’Bryan 4/25/2011
Dale Ramsey 4/4/2011
3/9/2012
5/3/2013
David Caruth 3/24/2011
William McKimm 4/18/2011
4/2/2012
5/22/2013
Tony Yocom 3/21/2012
J.R. “Rusty” Porter 2014 Not Paid
LeAnne Daniel 5/26/2011
5/10/2013
Robert Batton 4/15/2011
2014 Not Paid
Vic Fleming 4/11/2012
Rita F. Bailey 4/11/2012
3/14/2013
Randy Morley 3/9/2012
4/18/2013
John Throesch 3/22/2011
5/15/2013
2014 Not Paid
David Reynolds 4/26/2011
Ray Reynolds 3/14/2011
4/1/2014
John D. Eldridge III 5/7/2013
As an aside, trying to find comprehensive information about the date of election of various district court judges appears to be a fool’s errand.
For the record, I don’t think Judge Cole was correct, I don’t think Judge Foster is entitled to the writ (because the petition was overly broad and terribly disjointed in the relief sought), and I think there is a due-process question (albeit one with some wiggle room of its own).
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4 comments for “Judicial Review: Fifty-Nine Sitting Judges With Problematic Suspensions

  1. lilith
    April 9, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Judge Foster apparently doesn’t think the laws he enforces in his court room apply to him. A license is a privilege afforded by the state to an individual that complies with the terms of the license. One has their driver’s license suspended for violating those terms including not paying the renewal registration when due. A medical professional that let’s their license lapse is barred from practicing, why is Judge Foster or any other lawyer’s license any different?

  2. totally disappointed
    April 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    People make mistakes everyday about payment deadlines and they usually are penalized for not paying on time. In this case attorneys and judges are penalized with a late fee of $100.00. Statistics say that 700-900 attorneys/judges fail to timely pay their fees. That means that $70,000 to $90,000 are generated in late fees every year. Therefore, it becomes very lucrative for the organization the receives payment. It is petty to make an issue out of this since the attorneys/judges penalty is the additional cost for not paying timely.

    A few years ago a judge/attorney had not paid his attorney fees for 10 years and he had not kept his CLE requirements and he had several grievances filed by clients in which he had mismanage attorney fees. It was decided since he had not paid his fees, did not attend CLEs that he was practicing law without a license and he was removed from the bench and his license was suspended. He failed to do what was required to keep his license. He was also reprimanded for his behavior.

    I say it is petty because we are all late paying something and we all have to suffer the consequences and it this case it is a temporary suspension remedied by paying the fee and the penalty. If you fail to pay for your drivers license to be renewed you get a temporary suspension remedied by paying for the renewal and paying for your ticket.

    What we really need to focus on here is how the judge performs his duties while he is in office? Whether he holds up his oath to be impartial or whether he makes his/her decisions based on who contributed or did not contribute to his campaign. Whether he makes his/her decisions based on the merits of the case or whether he/she lets their bias interfere with their decisions. So lets look at their abilities to commit to the oath of their office instead of whether they timely paid their dues because we all are guilty at one time or other of forgetting to pay something timely for one reason or another. Judges/attorneys have very busy lives and a lot of responsibilities. And although it is not excusable the penalty is the fine.

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