If you have been hanging around the Arkansas-centric parts of the internet long enough, you might recall when the Arkansas GOP tried to get me fired from the Arkansas Supreme Court. Their “concern,” as they put it, was that they thought I was writing this blog on state time.1 So they sent a FOIA request to the Court for my time sheets, phone records, and emails. Whatever. They didn’t get me fired,2 but their efforts did lead to then-Chief Justice Hannah basically implying that I should shut the blog down until I left the Court.3
The head of the Republican Party of Arkansas at that time they sent the FOIA request for my records was Doyle Webb. Mr. Webb was still head of the RPA in 2015 when Arkansas Business reached out to him as part of a feature they were doing about me. When asked about their efforts to get me fired in 2011, Webb said:
The Republican Party of Arkansas issued FOIAs to the Judicial Department of Arkansas to determine if Mr. Campbell was conducting partisan political activity during normal work hours while an employee of the state of Arkansas. We do not know the basis for his leaving or whether or not he was terminated from the Judicial Department for illegal political activity, but his political activity did cease and he gained employment elsewhere.
Now, as you probably know, Doyle Webb is married to Barbara Womack Webb, who was elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2020. Upon taking the bench in January 2021, Justice Webb did as all justices do and hired some law clerks. One of the clerks that she hired was Jennifer Lancaster, a lawyer who had served as Justice Webb’s campaign treasurer in 2020. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. At a bare minimum, given the Justice Webb’s husband’s concern with people being political on state time, we can rest easy knowing that Ms. Lancaster won’t engage in that sort of thing.
[Editor’s note: If this were professional wrestling, right about here is where the lighting would change, recognizable music would start blaring, and Jim Ross would scream “MUH GAWD, THAT’S IRONY’S MUSIC!”]
Oh. That appears to be her posting at 2:18 PM on a Friday, showing a picture that she took at 7:30 that morning over in the Capitol. Well, maybe she just stopped by there on the way to work and didn’t spend the day over at the Capitol instead of going to the Justice Building. Sure, we’d still have the issue of posting anti-vaccination stuff during “normal work hours” (as Doyle put it), but perhaps this is just a one-off all the way around.
Oh. Well, that sure looks like another picture, posted at 9:22 AM on that same day from inside the Capitol. But…I dunno, maybe someone sent her that picture from the Capitol while she was at work and she just went ahead and posted it? I mean, it’s not like she was necessarily at the Capitol all day, sitting in committee meetings and filming the proceedings, right?
Ok, ok. But…it’s not like she was also at the Capitol on, say, Tuesday of this week. Right?
To quote a great American philosopher: “D’oh!”
Snarkiness aside, it certainly appears that Ms. Lancaster has spent multiple days, not only posting partisan political messages during the Arkansas Supreme Court’s normal business hours, but actually being at the Capitol, engaging in those partisan politics on state time.
“But wait,” you may be saying. “Maybe she took a vacation day or something like that?” I had the same thought as you, Mr. Rhetorical Device. So, in an effort to find out without tipping my hand about what I was specifically looking at, I sent a FOIA request to the Court on Wednesday, asking for the leave records for all Supreme Court law clerks.
Yesterday, Stacy Pectol responded: “The law clerk positions are non-leave-eligible positions and do not accrue or report leave, therefore I do not have any leave records for Supreme Court law clerks.” So, no, this isn’t a case where she’s taking leave to go be political.
Besides, it’s not like Ms. Lancaster’s only political activity during normal business is going to the Capitol. Case in point:
You get the idea.4
Oh, Mr. Rhetorical Device, you’re back. What’s up?
“Who the heck is Jennifer Lancaster, though? What did she do before she became Justice Webb’s clerk?”
Great questions! As mentioned above, she is a lawyer and was Justice Webb’s campaign treasurer during the 2020 race. Before (and during) Justice Webb’s campaign, Lancaster and her husband were the attorneys who represented Lunden Roberts in a paternity suit against Hunter Biden. Following the 2020 general election–which, as you’ll recall if you’re not an absolute moron, Donald Trump lost–Lancaster and her husband were part of the Trump legal team that challenged the election results in Wisconsin.
Additionally, based on what one can glean from her Facebook page, she homeschools the couple’s two children, is an anti-abortion protestor, is no fan of critical race theory, and (despite her Trump ties) is apparently a Leslie Rutledge stan.
I mention her views on abortion and CRT and the rest for a reason. During a July 3, 2021 episode of the Facebook-based “Kim Hammer Show,”5 Lancaster and Justice Webb were both in studio with Sen. Hammer. Around the 15 minute mark, Justice Webb talked about how she reaches a decision in certain cases, and she noted that her law clerks “including Jennifer” are part of the discussion process and help her think through the issues.
Now we’re sitting here, with the Arkansas legislature passing a slew of anti-vaccination bills in a manner that all but guarantees that a lot of this stuff is likely to come before the Court in the future. How can Justice Webb meet the judicial standards of impartiality when her own law clerk is vehemently in support of these anti-vaccination measures, is encouraging people to contact legislators and push for these bills, and is literally attending sessions in the Capitol during the hours that she should be doing her actual job over in the Justice Building? (For that matter, how can Justice Webb ensure impartiality in the likely event of a lawsuit about the various voter-suppression bills that were passed in the spring when her law clerk literally worked for Donald Trump’s legal team in furthering the lie that the election was somehow tainted?)
Writing this, it dawns on me that there are only a few reasons that Lancaster could be at the Capitol during work hours, considering law clerks do not accrue leave and it is up to each justice to decide when a clerk needs to be at work: (1) Lancaster could be falsely telling Justice Webb that she is doing something else and then going to the Capitol without the justice’s knowledge;6 (2) Webb could be fully aware that Lancaster is going to the Capitol during work hours; or (3) Webb could be telling Lancaster that she does not need to be at work full-time, and Lancaster is using that as freedom to go do political stuff. None of these excuses is good.
Regardless of the reason behind her actions, I think Lancaster knows that what she is doing is wrong. Remember when I said I sent a FOIA request for all clerks’ leave records? Since there were no leave records, there was no reason for anyone in the Administrative Office of the Court or the Clerk’s Office to mention that request to the actual law clerks. Yet, shortly after Ms. Pectol responded to my request, Lancaster either locked down or scrubbed her Facebook page of basically everything from 2021.7 That might not be dispositive of anything, but it’s damn sure suspicious, isn’t it?
Something else also jumps out at me. Lancaster’s Facebook page describes her as, among other things, “Homeschool mom.” In this post, she specifically mentions that “We homeschooled from the Senate gallery this morning.” And we’ve seen that she has time to go to the Capitol, right?
How can those things be true and Lancaster still have time to do full-time work for the State? It’s not like she’s part time, after all. At least not according to her salary.
Lancaster was hired at $85,000 back in January. At the time, she was the lowest-paid law clerk among the 14 clerks. And then…well, just look at this:
At some point during this calendar year, the 10 clerks who were not maxed out on their salary range got raises. Seven of them got $2,300 raises, one got $1,800, and one got $1,200. Lancaster got $5,000.
$90,000 per year with the flexibility to go to the Capitol and engage in political activity during business hours and enough free time to homeschool your kids is a pretty sweet gig. But it’s probably not one that Arkansas taxpayers should be footing the bill for.
I am drifting slightly off topic here. Focus. Back to the main point: Arkansas state policy states, “State employees are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity during the hours they are performing work for, and being paid by an agency of State government.” It is inarguable that that is exactly what Jennifer Lancaster has been doing repeatedly in her role as a law clerk for Justice Barbara Webb.
“Partisan political activity.” “Normal work hours.” “Employee of the state.” “Illegal political activity.” Those are the things that Doyle Webb, as chair of the RPA, was so concerned about in 2011 that he reiterated them four years later when asked about it.
Now that he is running for Lt. Governor, I wonder if he is just as concerned about those things when an employee of his wife is blatantly doing exactly what he falsely accused me of a decade ago.
Because I wasn’t doing anything wrong.↩
Hilariously, BHR somehow had more fans when it returned than when it went dark. It was also during those two dark years that Mark Darr acted like no one would ever look into his financial reports. Whoops.↩
Imagine being someone other than Jessica Ballinger and having multiple pictures and videos of Bob Ballinger on your Facebook wall. Gross.↩
Which inexplicably starts with the melody from the Rick James song “Superfreak.”↩
It’s not really believable that Lancaster could be doing this behind the justice’s back. Lancaster tagged Justice Webb in a Facebook post about Webb’s portrait, and the two are Facebook friends. Only through willful ignorance could Webb be unaware.↩
Though she then turned around and posted that Ballinger video. Old habits die hard as hell, yo.↩