An attorney has appealed sanctions ordered against him last month after a judge said his motion to dismiss a theft case involving the Faulkner County administrator was frivolous.
Defense attorney Joe Don Winningham on Oct. 10 sought to have the case against County Administrator Jeff Johnston dismissed, arguing that the state selected "the judge of its choice" when Juvenile Court and Fifth Division Judge Rhonda Wood signed the arrest warrant after Circuit Judge Charles Clawson Jr. declined to do so.
Clawson referred the case to Wood because she is leaving for the Arkansas Court of Appeals in January, so her hearing it eliminates a potential conflict of interest since the county administrator works with judges on budget issues. Winningham contended a state Supreme Court administrative plan barred her from presiding over the case.
But, Wood said, the court and the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure allowed her to hear it and gave her the authority to sign the arrest warrant. She called Winningham's motion improper and "without a scintilla of merit" and ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine if he didn't withdraw it.
Faulkner County court records show Winningham on Wednesday formally appealed the sanctions, asking in the filing that the case be referred to the state Supreme Court because it involves the discipline of an attorney. The filing notes Winningham has denied to withdraw his initial motion.
Johnston was arrested in August on accusations he used county money to asphalt a 500-foot-long driveway at his personal home. He is set to go to trial Dec. 6.