For the 10s of you following the state judicial eligibility saga, a quick note about this morning Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story that led with the finding that nearly a third of sitting judges in the state have been suspended for not paying their bar dues since 2006: Aside from serving as further evidence that judges are slackers like the rest of it, the story didn’t tell us much.
Why did the D-G chose 2006 as the cutoff point? It’s utterly arbitrary, and it misses some key folks who’d be ineligible if the Supreme Court ever hears an appeal and rules that administrative suspension affect eligibility, namely Supreme Court Justices Karen Baker and Courtney Hudson Goodson. (I’d previously, incorrectly, lumped Chief Justice Jim Hannah in with Baker and Goodson).
Amendment 80 went into effect in July 2001. It required Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges to be licensed attorneys for eight years prior to assuming office. Circuit judges to be licensed for six years and District judges to be licensed for four. The law says that judges in office when the law went into effect should serve out their terms. Baker’s license was suspended in 1997, 2000 and 2003. The former dates fall within eight years of her time on the Court of Appeals; the latter fits within eight years of her joining the Supreme Court. Goodson’s license was suspended for about three months in 2004; she began her term on the Supreme Court in 2011.
To figure the true number of judges whose eligibility might be called into question, you’d have to go back four, six or eight years — depending on the level of judge — from January 2002, when the first class of judges assumed office after the passage of Amendment 80.
I don’t want to do that. Maybe someone else will.
In the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that an appeal comes before the Supreme Court quickly and we never have to talk about this again.