The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday endorsed the state judicial discipline panel's decision to suspend a Pulaski County circuit judge over complaints about his courtroom conduct.
The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission recommended suspending Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims without pay for 30 days, which could be expanded to three months total within the next year if he does not take certain remedial actions, including attending a class on mindfulness, patience or civility; hire a counselor or life coach to consult with him about how he treats professionals appearing in his court; have no more complaints that result in public charges or discipline; and being on notice that future complaints concerning intimidation, bullying, retaliation or harassment will be investigated.
The sanction, which Sims agreed to, is in response to two complaints against him involving his treatment of public defenders on three separate occasions in 2019. The conduct included leaving the bench while a public defender was questioning a witness and refusing to hear her response to a prosecution objection, making statements about the way an attorney was conducting the jury selection process and questioning her defense strategy for her client, and accusing another public defender of reporting him to the judicial discipline commission.
The per curiam opinion states that the high court accepts the commission's findings and recommendation.
Justice Shawn Womack dissented, arguing that the constitutional authority by which the commission was created ceased to exist after the passage of Amendment 80, which was approved by voters in 2000 and rewrote the judicial article of the state constitution.
"I respectfully dissent from the court's decision to ratify the actions of an unconstitutional entity," Womack wrote.
Sims, 60, has served as circuit court judge in the 6th Judicial District, which covers Pulaski and Perry counties, since 2003.