Circuit judge announces run for Arkansas Supreme Court

FILE — The Arkansas Supreme Court is shown in this undated file photo.

Circuit Judge Carlton D. Jones of Texarkana announced a run for the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday, saying he will seek the seat formerly held by Justice Robin Wynne, who died in office earlier this year.

Jones is the second candidate to officially make a bid for the Position 2 seat. Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Rae Hudson, who is serving on the high court in Position 3, announced a run for the seat earlier this month.

Following Wynne's death in June, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders appointed Cody Hiland, former U.S. attorney and chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, to fill the vacancy on the court. Hiland will serve on the high court until an elected justice takes office to fill the remainder of Wynne's term.

Jones said his experience as a judge and prosecuting attorney "give him a unique perspective that will allow him to be a highly effective member of the State Supreme Court," according to a news release announcing his run.

Jones is serving his second elected term as a circuit court judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit-South. Voters first elected him to the position in 2014. Before becoming a judge, Jones was elected prosecuting attorney for the judicial circuit in 2010. He previously served as a deputy prosecuting attorney, the release said.

Jones serves on three Supreme Court committees: the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, Model Jury Instructions Committee, and is the current chair of the Criminal Practice Committee. While serving on the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, Jones "came to know and respect Justice Wynne for his intelligence and dedication to the law and justice," according to the release.

Jones is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.

Hudson is serving her second term on the court in Position 3. She has said seeking the Position 2 seat vacated by Wynne would allow her to serve a few more years on the court before reaching mandatory judicial retirement due to how the date of her 70th birthday corresponds with the stagger of the Supreme Court terms.

Under state law, a judge or justice who is eligible to retire and elected to office after turning 70 must forfeit their retirement benefits with the Arkansas Judicial Retirement System.

The seven justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court are elected in statewide nonpartisan elections and serve on the bench for eight-year terms.

Along with selecting a justice to serve the remainder of Wynne's term in 2024, Arkansas voters will have to select a new chief justice and decide whether to re-elect Justice Shawn Womack.

Chief Justice John Dan Kemp has announced plans to retire at the end of his term, noting that since he has passed age 70 he would have to relinquish his retirement benefits under state law if he were re-elected.

Justices Karen Baker, Rhonda Wood and Barbara Webb have announced runs for chief justice.

The elections will be March 5, 2024.