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An attorney for the Arkansas Department of Human Services announced Thursday that she plans to run for one of the six Pulaski County Circuit judge posts that will open up next year.

Shanice Johnson, 31, of Little Rock revealed her plans on her campaign Facebook page, called "Shanice Johnson For Circuit Judge," to seek the position held by retiring Judge Joyce Warren, who was elected in 1988.

Johnson's interest in replacing Warren, a judge in juvenile court, turns that race into a three-way contest. Warren's son, Jonathan Warren of Little Rock, and Lott Rolfe IV of Maumelle, also have said they intend to seek the post.

Thursday was the first day the candidates' campaign committees can solicit or accept contributions. The judicial elections will take place during the March primaries.

A graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's William H. Bowen Law School who passed the bar in 2014, Johnson works in the Human Services Department's Office of Chief Counsel. In a statement on her Facebook page, Johnson said the importance of being a "fierce advocate" for children is the driving force behind her interest in the judgeship.

She's participated in student training programs at the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission and the Social Security Administration and has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Johnson also has contributed her legal skills to groups such as the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and the Shorter College Expungement Clinic, among others.

All of the retiring judges, except for Wiley Branton, are leaving because of a state law that strips them of their retirement benefits if they are elected after turning 70.

Circuit judges earn $168,096 per year and are elected for six-year terms. The filing fee to get on the ballot is $6,528 -- 4% of the position's annual salary.

Most of the candidates, including incumbents up for re-election like Cathi Compton and Herb Wright, are collecting voter signatures to get on the ballot by petition. Each candidate must collect signatures of 3% of qualified voters within the 6th Judicial Circuit of Perry and Pulaski counties or 2,000 voters, whichever is greater.

Candidates planning to get on the ballot by petition are required to turn in their signatures between noon next Thursday and noon Sept. 19.

The other retiring judges and the lawyers who have announced plans to run are:

• Branton, elected 1993; Tjuana Byrd and Suzanne Ritter Lumpkin.

• Mary McGowan, elected 1990; LaTonya Austin and Andy Gill.

• Richard Moore, elected 2003; Amy Dunn Johnson, Gary Rogers and Jay Shue

• Chris Piazza, elected 1990; Hugh Finkelstein, Scott Richardson and Casey Tucker.

• Vann Smith, elected 1988; Andrew Ballard, Tom Barron, Shawn Johnson and Jim Wyatt.

Metro on 09/06/2019

Print Headline: DHS attorney joining race for judgeship

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