The knocks against Court of Appeals Judge Rhonda Wood keep piling up. She’s been at the vanguard of the Republican, business-lobby takeover of the non-partisan judiciary. She’s played loose with the facts on contributions to her unopposed campaign for Supreme Court by the nursing home lobby. Now, after responding to questions raised by Blue Hog Report about her eligibility to run for Supreme Court, Blue Hog’s Matt Campbell argues that Wood has violated judicial rules.
Yesterday, Wood released this statement:
Earlier this week, news reports questioned my uncontested candidacy for the Arkansas Supreme Court because of an issue with my attorney license dues payment in 2008.1 I take this opportunity to explain what happened.
On February 1, 2008, I made a good faith attempt to pay my license fee in a timely manner. 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.
I take full responsibility for the incorrect payment amount. However, I was never notified of the short suspension until media contacted me this week. My name was not included on the 2008 list of attorneys with delinquent dues. Finally, my license was never revoked, and I have been a licensed attorney in Arkansas since 1999.
Amendment 80 requires me to have been a licensed attorney the eight years prior to serving on the Arkansas Supreme Court. I have served as a Circuit Court Judge from 2007 – 2012 and as a Court of Appeals Judge since 2013. Both positions also required me to be a licensed attorney for a certain period of time and no person has ever before questioned my qualifications to serve on the bench.
I believe I meet the qualifications to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court and I am prepared to defend my right to do so. I have admirably served our state, and I look forward to doing so again on our highest court.
Campbell argues that Wood, by arguing that an administrative suspension of her law license shouldn’t disqualify her from holding a judicial seat, is betraying her impartiality on an issue that’s almost sure to come before the Supreme Court. Which judicial rules naturally prohibit.
If you haven’t been following along, this issue comes in the wake of Circuit Judge John Cole’s recent ruling disqualifying lawyer Valerie Thompson Bailey from challenging Circuit Judge Tim Fox for the 6th Circuit judgeship that Fox currently holds. Cole ruled Bailey was ineligible because her law license, issued in 1999, was suspended between 2002 and 2011 because she didn’t complete the required annual legal education courses. Law requires a judge to have six years of law licensure “preceding the date of assuming office.” From the bench, Cole said, “A suspension is a suspension is suspension. It doesn’t matter if it’s administrative or disciplinary.”
Separate lawsuits have since been filed challenging the eligibility of Judge H.G. Foster, attorney Angela Byrd and Judge Tim Fox (Campbell is an attorney in the Fox case). Several other judicial candidates have had their licenses suspended, but there eligibility has not yet been challenged in court.
Judicial apocalypse here we come!