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Court upholds decisions qualifying Byrd, Fox, Foster to run for judge positions

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published May 14, 2014 at 3:19 p.m. Updated May 14, 2014 at 3:44 p.m.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld lower court decisions that three judicial candidates are eligible to run despite lapses in paying license fees that resulted in suspensions.

In rulings issued Wednesday, the court said lawyer Angela Byrd, incumbent Judge H.G. Foster and Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox are eligible to run despite lawsuits that contended the suspensions disrupted a state constitutional requirement that a judge be a lawyer for six years prior to taking office.

"Though Judge Fox failed to pay his annual license fee for forty-five days in 2013, he nevertheless remained a licensed attorney during the period of delinquency because his license was not terminated and his name was not removed from the list of licensed attorneys," Associate Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote for the majority in the Fox decision.

In an opinion upholding Foster's candidacy, Associate Justice Cliff Hoofman wrote that the rule that results in lawyer suspensions for not paying licensing fees is unconstitutional because it does not provide them "procedural due process."

"Under the Rule, a lawyer's fee could theoretically get lost in the mail or even be miscredited by the clerk's office, and a lawyer would have no notice or any opportunity to have the mistake corrected prior to the suspension, even though the mistake was made through no fault of the attorney's own and clearly was not the product of his or her wish to 'voluntarily give up' the license," the opinion said.

Chief Justice Jim Hannah, writing for the majority in the Byrd decision, cited the other two cases in upholding the decision allowing her to run.

The state's high court on Wednesday also dismissed the appeal of Valerie Thompson Bailey, who was ruled ineligible in circuit court to run for judge because of a multiyear suspension tied to late fees and failing to undergo necessary training.

Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote that Bailey could have filed an appeal to the high court "in a truly expeditious manner" but didn't, and it's now too late for the court to take any action that could allow her to run.

"She offers not one suggestion for what relief this court can grant that would have any practical effect in light of the fact that the ballots have been printed … " Corbin wrote.

With that in mind, Corbin wrote, "there is simply no compelling interest" for the justices to address whether the circuit court ruling was correct.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more on this story.


Comments on: Court upholds decisions qualifying Byrd, Fox, Foster to run for judge positions

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Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 total comments

Pacorabone says... May 14, 2014 at 4:57 p.m.

I didn't pay my auto tags and got pulled over... Shouldn't I have received a pass? Perhaps I should appeal!! A dr fails to review his medical license... Can he write a script?? Not a chance!! Our judicial system is broken and has been hijacked by ideologues more bent on agenda than truth

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skeptic1 says... May 14, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.

This was no doubt a Hobson's choice as they would have had to disqualify their own that also flaunted the law as if it didn't apply to them. This puts another layer of bad odor on the court and anyone that gets elected like Foster who was practicing without a license for over two months four out of the last six years (and while sitting as an interim judge) along with Amy Brazil also running for judge in a district that spawned and covered up for Michael Maggio. How can we trust any of them to be impartial and to respect the rule of law with a record like that? Shameful, truly shameful.

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FarmBoy says... May 14, 2014 at 11:10 p.m.

Try and tell the police that you forgot to pay your license when you get stoped 45 days late and see if you can drive off and not have your car towed. Lawyers have gotten so crooked that it stinks. One thing for sure they take care of their own and don't let anything happen to them. But they can strike down the voice of the people and get away with it. Way to many lawyers.

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Populist says... May 15, 2014 at 7:36 a.m.

This is no biggie. I'm admitted to five bars. There is quite a bit of paperwork and fees to pay; it is quite a nuisance. Lawyers get the paperwork in late all the time. Hillary did it once also. What matters is how they perform their duties as judges.

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