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Judge urges reconsideration after Pulaski County wins suit over probation departments

Initial ruling erred, she says by Josh Snyder | May 24, 2023 at 4:24 a.m.

A circuit judge on Tuesday asked for the reversal of a court ruling earlier this month that paves the way for County Judge Barry Hyde, Pulaski County's chief executive, to eliminate her probation department as well as that of another circuit judge.

In a motion for reconsideration or a new trial, LaTonya Austin Honorable stated that her request was brought "based on errors of law made by" fellow 6th Judicial Circuit Judge Tim Fox in his May 16 ruling when he determined that a state law creating the departments violated the 14th Amendment to the state Constitution.

Honorable and Wendell Griffen, her predecessor on the bench, sued in December to stop Hyde from cutting their positions from their probation department.

Hyde then filed a countersuit disputing the legality of the probation departments of Honorable and Circuit Judge Leon Johnson, which are the only probation departments in the state run by judges.

In his ruling, Fox sided with Hyde in finding that the Arkansas law that created those probation departments is "special and local" legislation -- banned under the amendment.

Probation is the court-ordered supervision imposed on some defendants convicted of criminal activity. Probation everywhere else is managed by the Division of Community Correction, a subsidiary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, which also operates the state's prisons.

Honorable argued in her filing on Tuesday that Fox's determination that the law violated the 14th Amendment "contravenes decades of Arkansas Supreme Court decisions."

She also took aim at Hyde's counterclaim based on the 55th Amendment, which gives county judges authority over county property. The claim is barred by the statute of limitations, as well as by estoppel, waivers and laches, Honorable said.

In his ruling, Fox recognized Hyde as the ultimate hiring authority for the county, which gives him firing power as well.

The Pulaski County Quorum Court voted in November to fund the probation departments of Honorable and Johnson. Hyde publicly announced then that he wouldn't allow the necessary funding.

Information for this article was contributed by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter John Lynch.

Print Headline: Keep probation in 2 courts, judge requests in filing


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