A docket check show three Arkansas Supreme Court justices won’t participate in appeals of lawsuits over ballot eligibility of four judicial candidates. Reasons for their recusals weren’t given, but all have made late payment of attorney fees — an issue in three of the cases.
Justices Courtney Goodson, Paul Danielson and Karen Baker have recused from lawsuits challenging eligibility of Pulaski Circuit Judge Tim Fox, Faulkner Circuit Judge H.G. Foster and Faulkner candidate Angela Byrd. In each case, late payments of annual attorney fees in the six years preceding the election were cited as ground for disqualification. The Constitution requires six years of law practice immediately before an election to qualify for circuit judge. Challengers contend the routine suspension of attorney fees, however brief, during that period is ground for disqualification. Lower courts have rejected that argument.
All three have also recused from the case of Valerie Bailey, who was disqualified for running against Tim Fox because she allowed her license to be suspended for many years while she stopped practicing law. She contends she remained a licensed attorney during that time, even in suspension.
The Arkansas Times reported that all seven current members of the Supreme Court have made late payments of attorney licensing fees during their careers, but only two — Goodson and Baker — had been late in the period of legal practice required before an election by Amendment 80, which took effect in 2001. Chief Justice Jim Hannah was late in 1997, within the eight-year time frame required for Supreme Court justices in Amendment 80, but he was elected in 2000, before the amendment took effect.
Judges don’t have to disclose reasons for recusal and in these cases they may be rooted in issues other than fees.
CORRECTION: I wrote erroneously original that Baker had not recused from the Bailey case. She recused from that case as well yesterday afternoon.
Later this morning I”ll add the names of special justices appointed by the governor to replace those who recused. Raymond Abramson has been appointed to one of the openings on the Bailey case.
The appeals have been expedited and briefs are due Friday in all four cases.
UPDATE: Gov. Beebe also appointed Woody Bassett of Fayetteville and Todd Turner of Arkadelphia to sit on the cases.