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.