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story.lead_photo.caption Judge Wade Naramore (left) thanks a deputy as he leaves the Garland County Courthouse in Hot Springs after Naramore was found innocent in August in the hot-car death of his son. ( Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Stephen B. Thornton)

HOT SPRINGS -- Suspended Garland County Circuit Judge Wade Naramore continues to receive his $160,000 salary, and the state has spent $68,961 on special judges to serve in his stead since the July 24, 2015, death of his 18-month-old son, according to the state auditor's office.

Naramore -- who presided over Division 2, the countywide juvenile court -- was suspended with pay by the Arkansas Supreme Court on Feb. 18, 2016, after his arrest in the death of his son, Thomas.

The boy died of hyperthermia after Naramore left him in a hot car. A jury acquitted Naramore of negligent homicide, a Class A misdemeanor, after a five-day trial last August.

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission and Naramore's attorneys filed a joint petition for temporary suspension last February that was granted by the state Supreme Court under Rule 10 of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission's rules of procedure. It keeps a suspension in place pending the outcome of a disciplinary determination. When a judge is charged with a crime, the commission has only two options: suspend him with pay, or allow him to continue serving.

Commission Executive Director David Sachar said Thursday that he is prohibited by law from commenting on specific cases before the committee's investigative panel, which could dismiss the petition against Naramore, reach an agreement with him, or refer the case to the full commission panel for a formal hearing.

It's unknown when the three-person panel comprised of a judge, an attorney and a lay person will make a determination. The panel meets monthly to discuss active cases assigned to it.

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"They do not defer on making final decisions without a reason," Sachar said in an email. "Delay is not favored, and they generally dispose of cases deliberately but still quickly. Any case that is being investigated by a panel may take time as the panel is obtaining more information or waiting on something outside its control (statements, transcripts, records, reports from medical providers, police departments, other organizations or agencies, etc.)."

A referral to the full panel of three judges, three lawyers and three lay people could result in a dismissal of the discipline charge, a prescription for corrective action, or formal discipline. The latter would result in a recommendation to the state Supreme Court that Naramore be removed from office or suspended with or without pay.

The governor would appoint a replacement should Naramore be removed. If the removal occurs four months or more before next year's nonpartisan judicial elections, a judge could be elected to serve the remainder of the six-year term Naramore was first elected to in 2014. Per state law, a judge becomes vested in the state's judicial retirement system after eight years of service.

As of Wednesday, the auditor's office has released payments for 224 days of Division 2 special judge assignments. According to information provided by the administrative office of the courts, since September 2015 special judges have been assigned to serve 250 days in Division 2. The total includes 11 days of assignments for later this month and next month.

Some of the special judges assigned to fill in have been sitting circuit judges who don't receive extra pay for special judge assignments. Retired judges receive $307.69 per day, or half the daily rate due a sitting circuit judge.

The $68,961 paid by the state auditor's office doesn't include the $2,615 retired Circuit Judge John Langston received for presiding over Naramore's criminal trial after the county's three other circuit judges recused.

According to the state auditor's office, the Legislature allocated $500,000 for special judge salaries and $200,000 for payroll taxes for the 2015-17 biennium.

Division 2 hears all of the county's juvenile cases and a percentage of its domestic relations and probate cases. Only two of the assignment orders have given special judges continuing jurisdiction. One involved delinquency cases with two juveniles charged with rape, and the other is a pending child custody case.

State Desk on 02/21/2017

Print Headline: Fill-in costs for acquitted judge exceed $68,000


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Archived Comments

  • Skeptic1
    February 21, 2017 at 8:05 a.m.

    That poor child suffered an agonizing death that wasn't even worth a misdemeanor charge, yet others who have made the same mistake are in prison. How could anyone appear before him and feel they were receiving justice? He should not be allowed to continue to draw his full salary and he should be permanently removed. It is tragic and his personal guilt will no doubt haunt him the rest of his life, but returning him to the bench would be a horrible travesty.

  • Razrbak
    February 21, 2017 at 9:02 a.m.

    Perfect example the the "Good Ole Boy" system being alive and well in Arkansas. It helps when you have sympathetic jurors that probably went to the same church they he started going to after he killed his son. The JDDC panel will not take any action against him since he was found not guilty and he will remain a judge. The only justice in this case is that the guilt and grief will remain with this POS for the rest of his life.

  • DontGoThere
    February 21, 2017 at 10:57 a.m.

    Once again, our broken legal system prevails. Why should the taxpayers foot the bill for his negligence? Take it out of his paycheck!

  • mohinder
    February 21, 2017 at 5:15 p.m.

    Oh yeah and Garland county sheriffs lost the video evidence that probably showed that Naramore knew his son was in the car! How convenient!? I know Jesus wants us to forgive but hopefully all involved in this crime and coverup suffer horribly on this Earth before they rot in hell.

  • Knuckleball1
    February 21, 2017 at 7:13 p.m.

    Scumbag needs to resign from office and just go away... Judge in Eureka Springs selling leniency for sexual favors has to resign and sign a letter to never run for office again. This Scumbag kills his kid and returns to the bench...!!! Yep, good Ole Arkansas Justice...!!!