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Won't seek new terms, 2 appeals judges say

by Michael R. Wickline | April 29, 2021 at 3:36 a.m.
Appeals judges Phillip T. Whiteaker (left) and Larry D. Vaught are shown in this undated composite photo.

Two judges on the Arkansas Court of Appeals said Wednesday that they will not seek reelection.

Appeals Judge Phillip T. Whiteaker of Cabot announced he won't seek a third term next year.

Appeals Judge Larry D. Vaught of Little Rock confirmed he won't seek reelection next year because he is 74 and would have to forfeit his judicial retirement under state law if he started a new term.

But Appeals Judge Raymond Abramson of Holly Grove said he "is not ready to say" whether he will seek reelection next year. He is 70 and also would have to forfeit his judicial retirement if reelected.

The nonpartisan judicial election and primary election will be May 24, 2022, according to the secretary of state's office.

Whiteaker, 61, holds Position 2 in the Court of Appeals' District 1, which includes Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Greene, Lonoke, Mississippi, Monroe, Poinsett, Prairie, White and Woodruff counties.

He was first elected to the Court of Appeals in 2012 and has served on the court since 2013. He previously served 16 years as a circuit judge in Lonoke County.

Whiteaker said in an interview that "it's been a fun ride" and that he's enjoyed his time as both a trial and appellate judge, "but I think it's time to move on."

He said he announced his plan not to seek reelection so he could give potential candidates time to consider seeking the post. He said he is not aware of any people who are considering running for the position.

Whiteaker said he plans to spend time with his four grandchildren, on church activities and on travel after his term ends. He said he has no particular professional agenda on what he will do when he leaves the appeals court.

Vaught holds Position 2 in the Court of Appeals' District 6, which includes Perry, Pulaski and Saline counties.

He was first elected to the Appeals Court in 2000 and has served since 2001. He was its chief judge from 2009 through 2013. He previously served seven years on the Pulaski County Municipal Court bench and had stints as a deputy prosecuting attorney, as a lawyer in private practice and as the Pulaski County civil attorney.

Abramson holds Position 1 in the Court of Appeals' District 1.

He served on the Appeals Court from Aug. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2012, after his appointment to the court by then-Gov. Mike Beebe. After running unsuccessfully for the state Supreme Court in 2012, Abramson was elected to the Court of Appeals in 2014 and has served on the court since Jan. 1, 2015.

He practiced law in Clarendon and served stints as Monroe County public defender, Clarendon municipal judge, Holly Grove police court judge, Holly Grove city attorney and special justice to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The judges on the state Court of Appeals are paid a salary of $179,123 a year. The court's chief judge is paid a salary of $181,855 a year.

Circuit Judge Cindy Thyer of Jonesboro on Wednesday declined to say whether she is considering running for the state Court of Appeals, citing Rule 4.2 of the Arkansas Judicial Code of Conduct.

Among other things, Rule 4.2 keeps a judicial candidate from creating a campaign committee or speaking about his or her candidacy more than 365 days before the election.

Thyer said she will keep her options open after prayer, careful consideration and discussion with her family. She is the wife of former U.S. attorney and former state Rep. Chris Thyer, D-Jonesboro.


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