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6th Judicial District judge Sims stepping down at end of February

by John Lynch | January 13, 2022 at 3:20 a.m.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims is shown in this April 2015 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

Barry Sims, the senior criminal-court judge for the 6th Judicial District of Perry and Pulaski counties, will retire from the post at the end of next month.

Sims informed Gov. Asa Hutchinson of his intentions in a letter this week. Hutchinson will have to appoint a replacement to serve until the 2024 judicial elections.

Sims was reelected with no opposition in 2020. He was first elected to the circuit court in 2002, after winning a three-person race to replace retiring Judge John Plegge. He was first a North Little Rock District judge for about five years, and passed the bar in 1985.

Sims, 62, said in an interview that he's stepping down to join his wife of 33 years, Suzanne, who retired last year, to devote their time to their family. Parents of three grown children, the couple have three grandchildren, ages 1 to 5, and an adopted 5-year-old son.

Sims said he's been honored to be able to devote his 24-year judicial career to public service but said he needs to change his focus now that he's able to fully devote himself to his family.

"I need to put my family first," he said. "I'm moving on to a different phase. It's time."

Sims said he looks forward to continuing to serve the public in another role eventually, likely in volunteer service.

"I'm going to take some time and find the right opportunity," he said. "I want to help others."

The departure of Sims and two other retiring judges marks another significant change in the 17-judge judicial district centered in Little Rock after six judges retired last year.

Alice Gray, the longest-serving judge, announced her retirement last month, telling the Arkansas Times that she won't seek reelection this year so she can devote herself full time to caring for her ailing mother. Her term expires at the end of the year. Gray, 67, was elected in 1992, and is one of the district's five full-time civil judges.

Brenda Stallings, a public defender in the district's juvenile court, and Cara Conners, a former prosecutor with her own practice, are running to replace her in the May judicial elections.

Also departing this year will be Wendell Griffen, 69, who finishes his second term this year. Griffen, who presides over civil and criminal cases, was elected in 2009 but previously served 12 years as a state Court of Appeals judge, one of the first two black lawyers to hold the post.

Lawyers Ernest Sanders and LaTonya Austin Honorable are vying for the circuit judge position.

Elections to replace Gray and Griffen will draw from a small voter pool. Only qualified residents who live in the southwestern third of Pulaski County can cast ballots for their replacements.

The arrangement, known as the Hunt Decree, was enacted in 1992 to settle a federal Voting Rights Act lawsuit by creating Black-dominated voting precincts for judicial elections. The 1989 suit said Black residents had been denied equitable representation in the judiciary.

The deadline to file to run for a judicial office is noon March 1. The nonpartisan elections for circuit, appeals and the state Supreme Court are scheduled for May 24, a date they share with the state's partisan primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, among other races.

Print Headline: Sims to retire as 6th District circuit judge; replacement up to governor

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