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story.lead_photo.caption In this Feb. 12, 2018, photo, Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson sits inside the House chamber while waiting on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to deliver his State of the State address in Little Rock. Goodson is running for re-election and has been targeted in advertising by the Judicial Crisis Network. The same group targeted her during her unsuccessful 2016 bid to become Arkansas chief justice. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)

A Northwest Arkansas judge who ordered that attack ads critical of Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson be taken off the air this week reported receiving income, through his wife, from the law firm of Goodson's husband.

Washington County Circuit Judge Doug Martin issued a temporary restraining order Monday afternoon against several television stations in the area that had been airing ads that Goodson alleged to be "false, misleading, and defamatory."

Courtney Goodson is married to class-action attorney John Goodson, a partner at the Texarkana firm of Keil & Goodson.

In his 2017 statement of financial interest report, Martin reported that his wife, Amy, earned more than $12,500 for legal services performed at Keil & Goodson. Statements of financial interest don't give specific amounts of compensation but rather whether compensation is at least a specific amount.

Campaign finance records also show that Amy Martin contributed $50 to Justice Goodson's campaign for chief justice in 2015.

Judge Martin did not return messages left Tuesday evening at his judicial chambers or on a personal phone. A listed phone number for Amy Martin could not be found.

Judge Martin's order came in the midst of Goodson's re-election campaign for a seat on the high court. In that race, both she and another opponent, Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Hixson, have been the target of hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative TV ads paid for by out-of-state groups.

A third candidate in the race, Department of Human Services attorney David Sterling, has denied any affiliation with the ads.

On Monday, Goodson filed dual lawsuits in Washington and Pulaski counties seeking immediate injunctions to halt the airing of ads by the Judicial Crisis Network saying Goodson took expensive gifts from trial attorneys and sought a raise while on the court. Goodson filed a third lawsuit Tuesday to halt the ads in the Fort Smith area.

In court papers, Goodson's attorney argued that the ads mischaracterized the justice's record, noting that she had recused from cases involving donors and that the requested raise -- which was not approved -- was sought by the court as a whole.

In Pulaski County, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza scheduled a hearing on Goodson's request for Friday, but took no other immediate action. Piazza was assigned the case after another judge, Timothy Fox, recused.

In Washington County, Judge Martin granted the emergency request for a restraining order without response from the defendants -- several TV stations and cable service providers -- until a hearing that he scheduled for Thursday. Martin was also assigned the case after the recusal of another judge on the circuit, Beth Storey Bryan.

Asked if Martin's spousal connections to Keil & Goodson created a conflict, Courtney Goodson's attorney, Lauren Hoover, said that the decision to recuse is up to the judge himself.

"It's no secret we're excited about the [temporary restraining order]," Hoover said, adding that a recusal by Martin "will not end this litigation."

To succeed in defamation cases, public officials such as Goodson must meet a higher standard of harm known as "actual malice," the U.S. Supreme Court has said. By issuing a temporary restraining order, Martin found that Goodson had a "substantial likelihood" of success at proving her claims at a full hearing.

Asked if Martin's finances should have required him to recuse from the Goodson case, state Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission Director David Sachar declined to comment on the specific matter.

However, he pointed to the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 2.11, which states "a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

That includes cases where the judge or the judge's spouse have "an economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding."

"Generally, judges should recuse if there's actual prejudice or bias on the judge's part, or the appearance of prejudice or bias on the judge's part," said Arkansas Judicial Council President Judge Wiley Branton, who declined to comment on specific matters.

It's unclear the exact nature of Amy Martin's work for Keil & Goodson, or whether she worked full time. In 2017, she also reported receiving income as a private attorney, an adjunct professor of business law at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and as consultant for a California-based fashion company.

Both Amy Martin and John Goodson's partner, Matt Keil, are listed as attorneys together representing the plaintiff in a federal court case in the Eastern District of Arkansas last year.

A phone call to Keil & Goodson was unanswered Tuesday evening.

John Goodson serves on the board of trustees of the University of Arkansas System. He is also listed as one of three principals of the consulting firm Washington Advocacy Group, which lists Amy Martin as legal counsel on the front page of its website.

The firm offers "strategic and tactical advice to navigate through Congress and executive agencies, or [help] looking for opportunities to grow a client's business," according to a website. A call to the agency's listed number prompted an automated response that did not offer voice mail.

Prior to serving as a circuit judge in Washington County, Judge Martin was appointed to fill the vacancy on the Arkansas Court of Appeals when Goodson left to serve on the Supreme Court.

Information for this article was contributed by Hunter Field and Lisa Hammerslyof the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 05/16/2018

Print Headline: Records pose ad-case conflict; Judge’s wife had income from Goodson’s spouse’s law firm

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  • Inquirer51
    May 16, 2018 at 7:44 a.m.

    The fox guarding the henhouse.

  • Inquirer51
    May 16, 2018 at 7:46 a.m.

    Strategic and tactical advice sounds like funneling bribes to Congress and Federal officeholders.

  • JMort69
    May 16, 2018 at 8:03 a.m.

    Why don't we ask the king of conflicts, Bob Ballinger? He has multiple conflicts with Ecclesia College, attorney, title attorney, state representative, grant sponsor, makes one's head spin. Then, we have medical marijuana. Ballinger's clients, the Truloves, got a grow license from his law partner and MM Commissioner, Travis Story, just a few months after they contributed to Ballinger's campaign. Neither attorney felt compelled to disclose these conflicts. And, Ballinger loudly opposed MM, while his beneficiaries at Ecclesia were trying to steal part of the revenue. I have worked with many lawyers in my 37 year career. The first thing a good one does is check for any conflicts he might have and DISCLOSE them. Ballinger must have studied a different set of laws and rules, because he seems to feel none of the existing ones apply to him. In the end, I bet they will.

  • drs01
    May 16, 2018 at 8:03 a.m.

    Ironically, Courtney Goodson's legal move to block ads unfavorable to her has resulted in exposing some of the same kind of sleeze she was attempting to stop. Thanks to the Dem-Gaz staff for exposing this BEFORE the election so voters can see what kind of character we have running for the highest legal office in our state.

  • jaywills
    May 16, 2018 at 8:11 a.m.

    Apparently, the DG is not the only publication to notice this:

    dailycaller(dot)com/2018/05/15/arkansas-judge-restraining-order-reelection-ad/

    Always nice to have friendly judges.

  • GeneralMac
    May 16, 2018 at 8:47 a.m.

    I won't be voting for Courtney Goodson and I urge others to refrain from doing so, also.

  • mrcharles
    May 16, 2018 at 9:21 a.m.

    Drs01, GOOD comment.

  • BigA
    May 16, 2018 at 11:15 a.m.

    Appearance of impropriety... See what happens when a reporter does a good job!

  • Jfish
    May 16, 2018 at 11:38 a.m.

    Agree with drs01, looks like the good ole boy/girl system in Arkansas is alive and well even in our "justice" system.

  • GeneralMac
    May 16, 2018 at 3:56 p.m.

    " just say NO"................to drugs and Courtney Goodson.

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