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Karen Whatley, chief legal counsel for Arkansas governor, to replace retiring 6th Judicial District judge

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | January 26, 2022 at 11:38 a.m.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday he will appoint Karen Whatley to succeed Judge Barry Sims in Arkansas’ 6th Judicial District, 7th Division Circuit Court.

Sims, 62, serves as the senior criminal-court judge for the 6th Judicial District of Perry and Pulaski counties. He announced earlier this month he will step down at the end of February to devote more time to his family.

Whatley’s term will begin March 1 and expire Dec. 31, 2024.

“Karen will be an exceptional judge for the Sixth Judicial District," Hutchinson said in a news release. "Her expansive experience in criminal law makes her the appropriate appointee for this position.

"I am thankful for Karen’s service to my office and the State of Arkansas. I wish Judge Barry Sims well in his impending retirement.”

Whatley currently serves as Hutchinson’s chief legal counsel and previously served as the governor's Director of Legislative and Agency Affairs.

“I would like to thank Governor Hutchinson for this appointment," Whatley said."Being a part of the judiciary is an honor and a great responsibility, and I look forward to continuing to serve the state of Arkansas in this capacity."

Whatley was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas for nearly 14 years prior to joining Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, where she practiced in the litigation department for four years. She has practiced law since 1994 and has extensive experience in criminal law, having also worked for Jack Lassiter prior to her service as an assistant U.S. attorney.

Whatley is a graduate of Arkansas Tech University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.


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