|Arkansas judicial elections, 2014|
The Arkansas judicial elections are non-partisan and include all levels of courts. This state is unique in that its main election for judges is held early in the year--during the primary. The regular general election day in November is reserved for runoff elections for races in which no candidate receives a majority of the votes. See the Arkansas judicial elections page for more details.
2014 saw the election of one new supreme court justice, as well as a fifteen contested circuit court races.
- May 20: General election
- November 4: Runoff
In addition to candidate lists, this page includes information about how the state's judicial elections work, as well as articles about notable news in races across the state.
Appellate court candidates
Want to learn more about the biggest judicial elections in Arkansas? Check out the Arkansas Supreme Court elections, 2014
page for an in-depth exploration of the candidates, issues, politics and news surrounding the state's high court races.
Circuit court candidates
Division 2Division 3Division 3Division 5Division 2Division 1Division 3Division 2Division 10Division 4Division 1Division 2Division 4Division 5Division 2
District court candidates
Non-partisan general election
Judicial candidates compete in a non-partisan general election. These general elections take place on the same day as the primary elections for non-judge races in the state. If no candidate wins a majority, the two candidates with the most votes participate in a runoff. If a runoff is required, it takes place on the same day as the general election for partisan races, and runoff candidates appear on the general election ballot.
Candidates choose whether to file by petition or pay a filing fee.
There are different requirements for different courts for candidates filing by petition. In all cases, the "number of electors" refers to the number of electors in the district who voted for governor in the preceding election. Between the flat number of signatures or the percentage of electors, whichever amount is smaller is used.
- Supreme court: 10,000 signatures or 3 percent of the number of electors
- Court of appeals: 2,000 signatures or 3 percent of the number of electors
- Circuit court: 2,000 signatures or 3 percent of the number of electors
- District court: 2,000 signatures or 1 percent of the number of electors
The State Board of Election Commissioners established the following fees for candidates not filing by petition. The candidate pays the fee to the secretary of state upon filing:
- Chief justice of the supreme court: 6 percent of the annual salary
- Associate justice of the supreme court: 6 percent of the annual salary
- Court of appeals: 5 percent of the annual salary
- Circuit court: 4 percent of the annual salary
- State district court: 3 percent of the annual salary
Local district judges have separate filing fees, decided by the locality.
In the news
The following articles were current as of the dates listed, though new developments may not be included.
Arkansas mounts challenge to ruling striking down voter ID lawJuly 10, 2014
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|See also: JP Election Brief: Kidnapping, runoffs and voter ID
Earlier this year, a Pulaski County judge struck down a controversial voting law in Arkansas. Now, the state is challenging his ruling. Lawyers for Secretary of State Mark Martin argued that, in ruling the law unconstitutional, the judge did not follow court-mandated guidelines.
As we wrote about in a previous issue of the Election Brief, Sixth Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled the state's new voter ID law unconstitutional. He also ruled that the law, Act 595, was approved illegally. He wrote that such a law could not create a new qualification to vote, and that requiring voters to show a photo ID is a new qualification. He further said that the legislature did not meet a required two-thirds vote threshold in approving the law.
Martin's lawyers, also representing the State Board of Election Commissioners, argued in a supreme court filing on July 3 that Fox was using an incorrect standard to evaluate the law. They wrote that he should have found the law a legal "procedural requirement," which helps poll workers to match voters with the names on the voter-registration rolls.
According to the brief:
|| When those comparisons confirm that the voter is who he claims to be rather than an imposter, then the public can rest assured that the person is lawfully registered to vote in the election.
—Brief filed by lawyers for the state
Plaintiffs will have an opportunity to respond to the filing before the state supreme court makes its ruling on the law.
Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel joined Martin, a Republican, in the appeal of Fox's ruling. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe had previously vetoed the law before the Republican legislature overrode his veto.
Fox had issued a stay of his ruling, keeping the law in effect for the May judicial elections. The pending supreme court ruling could, however, affect a race between two circuit court candidates, Wade Naramore and Cecilia Dyer, who will compete in a runoff this November.
Dark money and dirty politics cast pall over state supreme court raceMay 22, 2014
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|See also: JP Election Brief: Don't discount the primaries! Many races already concluded
Votes in the state's only contested state supreme court race are still being counted. However, according to the numbers available on the Arkansas Secretary of State's website, Robin Wynne, currently a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, holds a slim lead over appellate attorney Tim Cullen.
Unfortunately, an attack ad critical of Cullen, which aired during the final days before the election, attracted more attention than the race itself. The ad claimed Cullen "worked to throw out the sentence of a repeat sexual predator, arguing that child pornography was a 'victimless crime'."
Five days before the election, Factcheck.org looked into the facts behind the 30-second TV spot, which was paid for by the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA). The ad said Cullen called child pornography a "victimless crime" in a brief he wrote while representing a client on an appeal. Cullen told the organization the words he used in the brief were misinterpreted and taken out of context.
Cullen put out an ad of his own. In it he stated that LEAA's ad was a lie and went on to criticize Wynne, saying "my opponent knows it." He also said, "I do not and have never believed that child pornography is a victimless crime." Factcheck.org criticized Cullen's ad, saying there was no evidence to show Wynne's campaign was responisble for putting out the ad. The organization pointed out Wynne denied having anything to do with the ad on his Facebook page. However, the organization decried the attack on Cullen saying,
|| The LEAA attack ad is beyond the pale. It comes at the 11th hour and distorts the record in a blatant appeal to fear and emotion. It is funded by special interests, but we don’t know the real intent of those behind the ad.
According to a blog for the Arkansas Times, the ad, estimated to have cost as much as $400,000, seemed unnecessary in a race between two candidates who weren't very well-known or controversial. The blog speculates that perhaps the ad wasn't really about either Cullen or Wynne, but instead was more of a trial run to test the effects of such an ad during a race for a seat on the top court. Two years from now, the state's chief justice seat will be up for grabs.
Circuit court challenger criticizes incumbent's administration of sobriety courtMay 15, 2014
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|See also: JP Election Brief: Candidate attacks
A candidate for the Twentieth Circuit in Arkansas is criticizing incumbent Amy Brazil’s handling of repeat DWI offenders. Brazil created a sobriety court in 2011 while serving on the Faulkner County District Court, in order to provide an alternate means for sentencing repeat offenders, but challenger Mike Murphy claims the court was a sham.  The court kept offenders out of jail, Murphy says, but failed to accomplish the court's stated goals- to provide violators with alcohol treatment services and close supervision.
The sobriety court was based in Conway, where Murphy is the city attorney, and his office prosecutes most DWI cases in the district court. Murphy released a statement claiming that he asked Brazil to allow the city attorney’s office to be involved with the sobriety court, but that she declined.
Brazil championed the sobriety court while campaigning for election in 2012. She lost the election, but Governor Mike Beebe subsequently appointed Brazil to the Twentieth Circuit, also based in Faulkner County.
|| I feel confident that if I had been elected in 2012 the program would be fully implemented by now and working to help individuals obtain sobriety, which would benefit not only them, but our entire community.
According to Murphy, a judge may order a defendant to perform community service instead of sentencing them to mandatory time in jail for a DWI offense. However, under state law, judges must provide a written order explaining their reasons for doing so. He noted the case files for participants in the sobriety court did not include this written documentation.
The Log Cabin Democrat mentions several irregularities associated with Brazil’s handling of the sobriety court. In court documents, she appears to have illegally reduced some charges from a DWI to DUI. Many offenders, according to the newspaper, did not serve mandatory minimum sentences. Deputy County Court Clerk Cindy Nutter, who was on the sobriety court team, said that Brazil made decisions unilaterally that should have been decided among the team—namely, which offenders qualified for sobriety court. Nutter gave one example that some offenders participated in the sobriety court before they were convicted, which went against her training. (Information regarding Brazil in a Women’s Inc. Voter’s Guide, from 2012, confirmed Nutter's statement. The guide noted, "Judge Brazil has modified treatment of DWI defendants by continuing to monitor their progress after their conviction.")
A public defender who served on the sobriety court team, Dustin Chapman, noted the sobriety court program was taking shape under Brazil. According to Chapman, those working with the sobriety court received training and a model existed for how the court would work. Some processes were also implemented. He told the Log Cabin Democrat,
|| We had breath monitors in their houses and required 12-step programs— it was innovative stuff that had not been done before. [Sobriety Court] never came to the goal we were working toward, but it wasn’t a fiction either.
Judge finds state's voter ID law unconstitutionalMay 8, 2014
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|See also: JP Election Brief: Judicial voting round-up
On April 24, Judge Tim Fox of the Sixth Circuit in Pulaski County ruled that 2013’s Act 595 violates the Arkansas Constitution. He also ruled the act was approved illegally. Act 595, passed by the Arkansas State Legislature, made the state 1 of 16 to require voters to show photo identification at polling places.
The lawsuit challenging Act 595 was filed by the state's American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter and the Arkansas Law Center, with four voters as plaintiffs. Lawyers for the offices of the attorney general and secretary of state argued that the law did not impose new qualifications, but was simply a new procedural mechanism.
The constitutional controversy over the law centers on whether the legislature may disqualify voters who do not produce photo identification at the polls. Article 3 of the state's constitution has requirements based on age, residency, citizenship and registration, but Fox found that the legislature must make new changes in the registration process, not new requirements at polling places. Poll workers were already allowed to ask for identification, but could not disqualify a voter for failing to provide it.
Governor Mike Beebe previously vetoed the bill on constitutional grounds. His veto was overruled by the Republican-dominated legislature. However, Fox found that the legislature failed to override the governor's veto with the required two-thirds majority of both chambers. He also found that voters may not be required to produce something at the polls that they were not required to produce at the time they registered to vote.
Fox’s decision is being appealed to the state supreme court, which may rule on the issue before the primary and non-partisan judicial elections on May 20. For now, the law will stand, despite Fox’s ruling. Last week, Fox stayed his decision, saying the 75 county election commissions in the state would not have time to comply with his ruling before this week’s commencement of early voting. He also cited a possible appeal and the possible lack of time for the supreme court to decide whether to issue its own stay.
Unless the state's high court intervenes, poll workers will require voters to provide photo identification in order to vote. Any voter who lacks identification will only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. The voter will then have to prove his or her identity at the county clerk’s office, to validate the vote, before counting is finished.
Of the 16 states which have laws requiring voters to produce identification, 8 have similarly restrictive voter ID laws that prevent a voter from casting their ballot if they fail to provide the required identification. For now, Arkansas is one of those 8 states.
Early voting underway in ArkansasMay 8, 2014
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|See also: JP Election Brief: Judicial voting round-up
Judicial elections in Arkansas occur on the same day as the primary elections for non-judicial races. This means all judicial races in the state, this year, will be on the ballot on May 20. However, early voting began on Monday, May 5, and will last until May 19. This gives everyone in Arkansas a full two weeks to cast their votes.
While it's true that many judicial candidates are running unopposed, there are many exciting races happening as well. First of all, there are three open seats on the Arkansas Supreme Court, one of which is a contested race between Robin Wynne and Tim Cullen. They are running for retiring justice Donald Corbin's seat. Justice Karen Baker is running unopposed for re-election. Rhonda Wood is unopposed to win retired justice Robert L. Brown's seat. Cliff Hoofman has held Brown's seat since January 1, 2013, but cannot run for election because he was appointed to the position. You can learn a lot of interesting things about the supreme court elections on our page, Arkansas Supreme Court elections, 2014.
13 out of the 23 state circuit courts have races with more than one candidate. Here are some of the contested races:
- In the First Circuit, Gary V. Austin and Christopher W. Morledge are running for Division 3. Jeanette Whatley is running against incumbent Ann B. Hudson, who has held the Division 5 position since 2009.
- In the Second Circuit, incumbent Lee Fergus will be challenged by Chris Jester. The Division 10 judge, Larry Boling, is not running for re-election. Jeanette Robertson and Dan Ritchey are trying to win that seat.
- In the Fourth Circuit, the current judges for Divisions 1 and 3 have challengers. Brian Lester is running against incumbent Doug Martin. Lisa Parks is running against incumbent Stacey Zimmerman.
- Ernest Sanders, Jr. and Mike Reif are competing for the Division 13 judgeship in the Sixth Circuit.
- In the Eleventh Circuit West, judge William Benton is being challenged by Mac Norton.
- Paul Post and Leigh Zuerker are running for retiring judge Mark Hewett's Division 4 position on the Twelfth Circuit.
- The two candidates competing for the Fourteenth Circuit, Division 2 seat are Jodi Carney and Deanna S. Evans.
- Terry Sullivan is running for re-election to the Fifteenth Circuit, Division 3 against Betsy Danielson.
- In the Seventeenth Circuit, Carla Fuller is challenging Division 1 judge Tom Hughes.
- Four candidates are running for Judge Vicki Cook's seat on the Eighteenth Circuit East. Cook is retiring after 21 years on the bench. The candidates are: Cecilia Dyer, John Howard, Michael H. Crawford and Wade Naramore.
- The only judge for the Nineteenth Circuit East, Kent Crow, is being challenged by Scott Jackson.
- Four of the five divisions in the Twentieth Circuit are contested races. Amy Brazil and Mike Murphy are running for Division 1. Joe Don Winningham faces Troy Braswell for Division 2. Incumbent David Clark is challenged by Angela Byrd. Finally, Doralee Chandler and H.G. Foster are running for the Division 5 seat.
- In the Twenty-Third Circuit, the race for Division 2 is between Ashley Parker and Larry K. Cook.
Will late payments keep some Arkansas judicial candidates from running for election?April 3, 2014
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|See also: JP Election Brief: Who's qualified? Courts, candidates and special interest groups all want a say
Judge John Cole cited Amendment 80 of the Arkansas Constitution in ruling that Valerie Thompson Bailey, a lawyer from Little Rock, was ineligible to run for a seat on the Sixth Circuit Court in Pulaski County, Arkansas. Bailey's license was suspended for nine years when she lived out of state and was not practicing law. Her law license was reactivated in November 2011. However, a lawsuit filed by a voter, alleged Bailey was not qualified to serve on the court because she had not held her license to practice law for six years before becoming a judge. Cole ruled Bailey must be disqualified from the ballot. Her license was reactivated after being suspended, but it's been less than 3 years since the suspension ended. According to Cole, the fact that her license was suspended for administrative, not disciplinary, reasons made no difference.
Unfortunately for other candidates who may be affected, the ruling that could disqualify them from running in the election was not an April Fool's Day joke. Tim Fox, who currently sits on the Sixth Circuit Court and would have faced Bailey during the election, has also previously had his license suspended. His suspension lasted for approximately one month last year when he failed to pay his state licensing fees. Other candidates whose licenses have been suspended for the same reason include: Faulkner County Circuit Judge H.G. Foster, who is running against Little Rock lawyer Doralee Chandler and Judge Rhonda Wood of the Court of Appeals, who is running unopposed for the Supreme Court.
Foster claims he has since paid his dues. However, Chandler filed suit in the Sixth Circuit, claiming Foster’s candidacy violates Amendment 80. In a news release, she said Foster failed to pay dues not only last year, but in four of the past six years.
On March 23, 2014, we reported on Rhonda Wood's unopposed candidacy for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court. (See story below.) However, based on Cole's ruling, Wood may no longer be qualified to run in the race. According to an e-mail sent to Judgepedia by a clerk at the Arkansas Supreme Court, state licensing fees are due and payable by March 1. In 2008, Wood did not pay her state licensing fees until March 13, 2008. Attorneys and judges in Arkansas must pay their state licensing fees annually. However, membership in the Arkansas Bar Association is voluntary and not related to the state's required licensing fee.
Wood currently serves on the Arkansas Court of Appeals and was elected in 2012. In order to qualify to serve on the appeals court, Amendment 80 requires judges on that court to hold a law license in the state for at least eight years. According to the Arkansas Judiciary's website, Wood was admitted to practice in Arkansas on August 31, 1999. If she had maintained her license in the state continuously, she would have exceeded the eight-year requirement. However, since her license to practice in the state was suspended in 2008, there are some questions about whether her failure to pay her fees would violate a key qualification requirement of Amendment 80. It states in part: "A justice of the Supreme Court shall be a licensed attorney for at least eight years immediately preceding the date of assuming office." Wood could have also been ineligible to run for her current seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, which also requires a candidate to have practiced law for eight years before taking office. Wood still fails to meet the eight-year requirement in her current bid for a seat on the supreme court, by about a year and 2 months, since she would take office in January 2015. She has not offered a comment on the matter.
Majority of justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court next year will be womenMarch 27, 2014
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|See also: JP Election Brief: Women successful in judicial races as incumbents face challengers
Three seats are up for election on the Arkansas Supreme Court in the 2014 election. The deadline for candidates to file was March 3, 2014. Only one seat is being contested. Justice Donald Corbin, who holds Position 2 on the court, will retire at the end of his term this year. An Arkansas appellate lawyer, Tim Cullen, and Robin Wynne, a judge who currently serves on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, will be running for Corbin's seat in the primary on May 20.
Position 7, which was held by Robert L. Brown until he retired last year, is currently filled by the Governor's appointee, Cliff Hoofman. Since he was appointed to the position, Hoofman can't run for the seat. Rhonda Wood, who also sits on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, announced her intention to run for the seat well before the election. She even received the endorsement of the State Chamber of Commerce on July 8, 2013. No other opponents signed on to challenge Wood for the seat, which means the court will have its first female majority.
Between 1975 and 1996, two women had the opportunity to sit on the Arkansas high court as appointees. However, a women wasn't elected to the court until 1997. Annabelle Imber Tuck sat on the court until her retirement in 2009.
Justice Karen Baker is also running unopposed to keep her current seat, Position 6. Two other women, Courtney Hudson Goodson and Josephine Hart currently sit on the court, along with Baker. In 2015, the Arkansas Supreme Court will bring the number of high courts around the a nation, with a majority of women holding seats, to 10.
- ↑ Arkansas Secretary of State, "2014 Nonpartisan Elections Calendar," accessed May 27, 2014
- ↑ Arkansas Secretary of State, "Elections division," 2011, accessed April 24, 2014
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Arkansas Secretary of State, "2014 nonpartisan elections calendar," accessed April 24, 2014
- ↑ Justia US Law, "§ 7-10-102 - Nonpartisan election of judges and justices," 2012, accessed April 30, 2014
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Washington Times, "Arkansas challenges judge’s voter ID finding," July 4, 2014
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- ↑ Judgepedia: Arkansas runoffs in 2014
- ↑ Arkansas Secretary of State, "Nonpartisan Election Results," May 20, 2014
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Arkansas Times, "Arkansas Blog, Arkansas gets national attention for sleazy judicial races," by Max Brantley, May 19, 2014
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 FactCheck.org, "Mudslinging in Arkansas Judicial Race," May 15, 2014
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Log Cabin Democrat, “Judicial candidate takes issue with Brazil's sobriety court,” May 8, 2014
- ↑ Talk Business Arkansas, "Gov. Beebe announces 24 appointments," January 2, 2013
- ↑ Women’s Inc., "Voter’s Guide: Who is Judge Amy Brazil?," accessed May 14, 2014
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 The Courier Online, "Balloting begins, voter ID law gets test in court," May 6, 2014
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 North Country Public Radio, "As states vote in primaries, voter ID laws come under scrutiny," May 6, 2014
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 Arkansas News, "Judge again strikes down voter ID law; stay keeps law in effect," May 2, 2014
- ↑ Hope Star, "Early voting opens primary elections," May 5, 2014
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 Arkansas News, "Faulkner County judicial candidate’s eligibility challenged," April 2, 2014
- ↑ Arkansas Bar Association, "Dues structure and rates," accessed April 2, 2014
- ↑ Arkansas Judiciary, "Attorney Search, Rhonda Kay Wood," accessed April 2, 2014
- ↑ Arkansas Judiciary, "Arkansas Supreme Court," accessed April 1, 2014
- ↑ Blue Hog Report, "Cole-Lateral Damage: Judge Tim Fox & Judge Rhonda Wood Ineligible?" April 1, 2014
- ↑ State of Elections - William & Mary Election Law Society, "Citizens United and Arkansas Supreme Court race," February 3, 2014
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 ArkansasAppeals.com, "History made with Arkansas's first majority-female supreme court," March 4, 2014