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A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of Arkansas alleges that the state's system for electing appellate court judges illegally deprives black voters of choice in representation on the benches of the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The suit claims that Arkansas' at-large election of judges to the Supreme Court, as well as its division of Court of Appeals districts, violates the Voting Rights Act by "illegally diluting the voting strength of Black voters in Arkansas."

There are no black judges on the seven-member Arkansas Supreme Court, and only one black judge on the 12-member Court of Appeals.

The suit was brought by a former circuit court judge, Marion Humphrey; a former prosecutor, Olly Neal; and Ryan Davis, the director of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Children International.

Attorneys with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as well as firms in Little Rock and Washington, D.C. are representing the men.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, a spokeswoman said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is "reviewing the complaint and considering next steps."


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  • CartoonDude
    June 11, 2019 at 7:36 p.m.

    How does it "dilute" the black vote? Perhaps the plaintiffs or the newspaper could elaborate.

  • RBBrittain
    June 11, 2019 at 7:37 p.m.

    I hope the ADG posts the complaint online with the full article in tomorrow's paper. IMO they will have an easier time with the Supreme Court, where at-large elections are required by the constitution -- and no African-American has ever been elected more than 40 years after George Howard Jr. (one of the "Six Pioneers" who integrated the UA, Fayetteville law school, later a federal judge, not to mention the father of one of my former Bowen professors) was first appointed to the court -- than the Court of Appeals, which already went thru a similar legal challenge in the 1990's and would be more like your normal redistricting voting-rights suit. (The last such suit over state legislative redistricting failed, though largely because it involved a single district.) The fact that women have come much farther on the Supreme Court in roughly the same time, from Elsijane Trimble Roy (first woman appointed, two years before Howard) to Annabelle Imber Tuck (née Clinton, first woman elected in the 1990's) to the present court (majority female since 2015), even further suggests action may be needed to help African-American attorneys reach that court.

  • titleist10
    June 11, 2019 at 7:50 p.m.

    What else are the blacks going to complain about ? Black Miss Arkansas pageant Black Miss America pageant Black Caucas Blackt Tv channel BlackFootball Hall of Fame you get the picture

  • RBBrittain
    June 11, 2019 at 7:51 p.m.

    @CartoonDude: Vote dilution claims assert that mixing whites and African-Americans in districts without regard to race reduce the ability of voters of color to pick the candidates they presumably want, i.e., African-American candidates. Ironically, though usually brought by black Democrats (Marion Humphrey & Olly Neal both ran as Democrats before judicial races became nonpartisan), Republicans have embraced these suits in recent years because they tend to make white districts even whiter, thus diluting the votes of white Democrats and making it easier for Republicans to win majorities in state legislatures. (They quietly backed the now-former state senator, a Dem, involved in the last redistricting suit; though the 2010 Census redistricting plan already favored Republicans, he was thrown in the same district as a powerful white Dem who ultimately beat him.)

  • NoUserName
    June 11, 2019 at 8:18 p.m.

    There are no Hispanics either. In a state that is 7% Hispanic. I wonder if the plantiffs care. Incidentally, Arkansas is 15% black according to Google. So they should have TWO members on the Court of Appeals on a population basis instead of the ONE they have now. And that works out to ONE on the Supreme Court.