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Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

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05/24/06

Final Actions for Judge L.T. Simes of West Helena, Arkansas and Judge Jim Bob Steel of Nashville, Arkansas

05/22/06
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03/05/04

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 21, 2008

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today announced that an agreed Letter of Reprimand has been issued to Judge Mary McGowan, Circuit Court Judge of the Sixth Judicial District and an agreed letter of reprimand has been issued to Judge L. T. Simes, Circuit Court Judge of the First Judicial District.

JUDGE MARY McGOWAN

A copy of the formal reprimand against Judge McGowan is attached.

JUDGE L. T. SIMES

A copy of the formal reprimand against Judge Simes is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2008

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judge John N. Fogleman of Marion, Arkansas. Judge Fogleman requested an opinion to address procedures outlined in the Code of Judicial Conduct as it relates to campaigns.

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee addressed his concerns in the enclosed advisory opinion.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2008

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judge Charles E. Clawson, Jr. of Conway, Arkansas.  Judge Clawson requested an opinion regarding the employment of his son Charles E. Clawson, III as Deputy Prosecuting Attorney to his same district.  He stated that his son would not be assigned to represent the State on any matters that will appear before him and that he would not have any association with the criminal load in the Third Division.  Judge Clawson and the other circuit judges in his district have requested the counsel of this Committee.

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee stated that Canon 3(E)(1) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct states that a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

The Committee concludes that the judge is required to recuse whenever his son appears in front of him, or by written materials, if his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2008

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judge Stephen Tedder of DeQueen, Arkansas. Judge Tedder requested an opinion as to whether the City of DeQueen may employ him to provide legal services to the city as a part-time city attorney. The request stated that Judge Tedder would not be prosecuting any cases in District Court. His role would be to serve as legal advisor to the city council, city officials, city boards and commissions, to draft ordinances and resolutions, and to perform similar tasks. Further that, Judge Tedder would be required to recuse in any instance regarding the validity or enforcement of an ordinance.

The Committee concludes that the Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit Judge Tedder and the city from entering into an agreement for legal services. But Canon 3(A) states that "the judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all the judge’s other activities." The Committee believes an agreement that would result in excessive recusal would therefore be inappropriate.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2008

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judge Stephen Choate of Heber Springs, Arkansas. Judge Choate requested an opinion as to whether he must resign as circuit judge upon entering the race for county judge. He also requested an opinion on whether a candidate for county judge is subject to the election restrictions (including fundraising and the “pledges and promises” limitations).

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee stated that Canon 5(A)(2) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct states that a judge upon becoming a candidate for a non-judicial office must resign from judicial office. The Committee also stated that candidates for county judge have not been held subject to the judicial election restrictions. The Committee believes that in adopting the Code of Judicial Conduct the Arkansas Supreme Court did not envision county judges as falling under it.

The Committee concludes that the office of county judge should be treated as a non-judicial office. The Committee stated that a circuit judge must resign if he or she becomes a candidate for county judge. The Committee also concluded that the candidacy for county judge would not be subject to the election restraints of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2008

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judicial Candidate Laurie A. Bridewell of Lake Village, Arkansas. Attorney Bridewell requested an opinion as to whether it would be permissible to continue to serve as city attorney for the City of Lake Village if she is elected district judge in the City of Eudora. She also requested an opinion addressing the ramifications of her husband/law partner collecting fees from criminal cases.

In addressing whether it would be permissible to serve as city attorney for one city and district judge for another, the Committee stated that nothing in the Code addressed the issue directly. Therefore, the Committee cannot opine that the Code prohibits the holding of both offices. However, the Code of Judicial Conduct requires that she resign from judicial office to run for her elective office of City Attorney.

The Committee stated that it could not address the inquiry concerning the ramifications of criminal law generated fees collected by the judicial candidate’s husband/law partner in general. The Committee only addresses specific prospective questions with regard to judicial conduct.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2007

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judge Marion A. Humphrey of Little Rock, Arkansas. Judge Humphrey requested an opinion as to whether it would be acceptable for judges to support candidates for political office.

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee stated that Canon 5(A)(1)(b) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct states that a judge shall not….”publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.”

The Committee concluded that it would violate the Code of Judicial Conduct, if a judge were to support candidates for political office.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT:  DAVID A. STEWART
PHONE:  682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 8, 2007

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission three-member panel assigned to hear the pending case against Judge Wendell Griffen announced that it will recommend to the Full Commission the dismissal of pending charges in case numbers 05-328 and 05-356.  The three-member panel will also recommend that the respondent’s motion for summary judgment be granted.

Respondent is alleged to have violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by making public speeches regarding the response to Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and against the “bashing” of immigrants and homosexuals, minimum wage, the nomination of John Roberts for chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, authoring an article entitled “Frustrated Presidents.”  That article appeared to generally address something he called the “unilateral presidency” and offered criticism of current and former members of the present Administration.

It is the opinion of the three-member panel that the speech in issue does constitute “protected speech” under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Full Commission is scheduled to meet on Friday, September 21, 2007. 

A copy of the three-member panel’s Report to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission Recommending Dismissal of These Cases is attached.

 

PRESS RELEASE
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2007

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Circuit Judge James A. Cox of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Judge Cox requested an opinion as to whether it would be permissible to serve on the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Board of Visitors committee. He stated that the committee is an advisory body that exists to support the University and that members of the committee are not concerned with issues of fact or policy. He stated that the committee serves to communicate the perceived needs of the community to the office of the school’s chancellor.

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee stated that Canon 4(C)(2) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct says that a judge “shall not accept appointments to a governmental committee or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy,” with the exception of matters of law or the judicial system. However, the committee notes that Canon 4(C)(3) permits a judge to serve as a trustee or advisor of an educational organization not conducted for profit.

The Committee concluded that the role of a member of the Board of Visitors is “more educational than governmental” and for reasons set forth in JEAC Advisory Opinions 95-03 and 2001-01, the committee believes that Canon 4(C)(3) is the controlling provision.

It is the opinion of the Committee that Judge Cox may serve on the Board of Visitors of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

PRESS RELEASE
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2007

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judicial Candidate Cathleen Compton of Little Rock, Arkansas. Ms. Compton requested an opinion as to whether it would be permissible to send a campaign contribution to the Campaign of Senator Mark Pryor. Ms. Compton had agreed prior to announcing her candidacy to be a co-host of the Senator Mark Pryor campaign. Co-hosts were asked to contribute $1000.00.

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee stated that Canon 5 of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct states that a judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from inappropriate political activity. Section 5A(1)(b) states all judges and candidates for election or appointment for judicial office shall not publicly endorse or publicly oppose a candidate for any public office. Finally, Section 5A(1)(e) states a judge or judicial candidate should not solicit funds for, pay an assessment to or make a contribution to a political party or candidate.

The Committee concluded that based upon restrictions in the Code of Judicial Conduct, Attorney Compton may not honor the campaign promise made prior to announcing her candidacy for a judicial position.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

PRESS RELEASE
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2006

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Attorney Ray Spruell, a publically announced candidate for circuit judge in the Second Judicial District of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Attorney Spruell requested an opinion as to whether a judicial candidate who is not an incumbent judge may be pictured in a judge's robe or seated at the judge's bench in campaign materials.

The Committee noted that Canon 5A(3)(d) provides that a candidate for judicial office shall not "knowingly misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent."

It is the opinion of the Committee that a judicial candidate who is not an incumbent judge should not be pictured in a judge's robe or seated at a judge's bench in campaign materials. Such material would misrepresent his or her "present position."

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 


PRESS RELEASE
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 13, 2006

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to District Court Judge Phil Shoffner of Searcy, Arkansas. Judge Shoffner requested an opinion as to whether he may, as an elected judicial officer, post a political advertisement in the form of a sign in a lot across the street from his home. He stated that he and his wife are co-owners of the lot in question. Judge Shoffner also stated that his wife has given consent to the candidate to post the campaign sign. The Committee stated that the Code of Judicial Conduct places clear restrictions on a judge. For instance Canon 5(A)(1), which states that, “a judge shall not publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.” In addition Canon 5 (A)(3) states that a judge must encourage members of his family to adhere to the same standard of political conduct. It is the opinion of the Committee that it would be improper to display a campaign sign on property owned by the judge and his wife, as it could be construed as a political endorsement.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S  R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2006

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced today final actions concerning two (2) Arkansas judges.   The Commission has issued a Letter of Admonishment to Circuit Judge L.T. Simes of West Helena, Arkansas and announced the resignation of District Judge Jim Bob Steel of Nashville, Arkansas.

Phillips County Circuit Judge L.T. Simes

Judge L.T. Simes was issued a Letter of Admonishment for personally soliciting campaign contributions, during his 2004 reelection campaign, from two attorneys who appeared before him.  The Commission found that he violated Canons 1 and 5C(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. 

A copy of the Letter of Admonishment is attached.

Pike County District Judge Jim Bob Steel

On May 11, 2006 , Judge Jim Bob Steel resigned as district judge of Pike County and city judge of Glenwood , Arkansas. As a result of his resignation and agreement to never serve again in the Arkansas Judiciary, the Commission decided that no further action will be taken in the complaint pending against him.  That complaint concerned a felony information that was filed against him in Howard County on July 14, 2005.

A copy of the Commission’s decision and Letter of Resignation are attached.

 

P R E S S  R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2006

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee announced today the appointment of two members to the Committee. Judge Edwin Alderson has been reappointed to serve a three-year term from July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2009. Judge John Plegge has been appointed to complete an unexpired term ending on June 30, 2007. Dean Howard Brill of the University of Arkansas Law School is the chair of the Advisory Committee.

 

P R E S S  R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2006

TThe Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey of Little Rock, Arkansas. Judge Humphrey requested an opinion as to whether it would be permissible, pursuant to the decision in Republican Party of Minnesota vs. White, for a judge to support candidates for political office.

The Committee examined Canon 5(A)(1)(b), which states that a judge shall not…."publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office." 
The Committee respectfully decline to engage in constitutional interpretations. The Committee concluded that it is not their role to hold that a provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct is unconstitutional. That task rests with the judiciary.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 16, 2006

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judge David Stewart of Little Rock, Arkansas. Judge Stewart requested an opinion as to whether the Arkansas District Judges Council (ADJC), a non-profit corporation, may make a direct or indirect political contribution from its treasury to an incumbent or a non-incumbent candidate to the Arkansas legislature. He stated that the operational funds for the Council are based on annual dues of the member district judges. He also stated that, in most instances, the dues are paid either directly or indirectly by the governmental entity that employ the judges.

The Committee stated the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct in Canon 5A(1)(e) prohibits a judge from making a contribution to a candidate for office. Canon 5A(1)(b) likewise bars a judge from publicly endorsing or opposing a candidate for political office.

It is the opinion of the Committee that the policy reasons that support these restrictions apply in like fashion to an organization of judges. Prohibited conduct cannot be legitimatized by indirect collective activity.

The Committee concluded that the ADJC cannot make direct or indirect political contributions to candidates to the Arkansas legislature.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2006

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Attorney Ray Spruell, a publicly announced candidate for circuit judge in the Second Judicial District of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Attorney Spruell requested an opinion as to whether a judicial candidate who is not currently on the bench but has served as judge may refer to himself or herself as “judge” in a campaign logo, on signs, or in other campaign material. The Committee noted that Canon 5(3)(d)(iii) provides that a candidate for judicial office shall not “knowingly misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent;.” It is the opinion of the Committee that Attorney Spruell’s use of the term “judge” in his campaign material would misrepresent his present position and would be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 7, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Retired Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Dawson of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Judge Dawson requested an opinion as to whether placing a photo of himself, wearing a court robe, on the jacket cover of the book he is writing entitled, “Fifty Years as a Judge and Counting”, would be a violation of judicial ethics.

It is the opinion of the Committee that placing the robed photograph on the jacket cover of the book would not violate any provision of the Code.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 7, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Circuit Court Judge David N. Laser of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Judge Laser requested an opinion as to whether it would be permissible for trial court assistants (case coordinators) to be involved in fundraising activities associated with an event honoring their employer, a circuit judge scheduled to retire in January of 2006. He stated that the judicial office will not be utilized in the promotion of the event. Judge Laser requested permission to use the honored judge’s name in the program, which would be disbursed prior to the retirement of the honored judge. He also requested an opinion on whether elected circuit judges may attend the event.

The Committee stated that trial court assistants for circuit judge should take special precautions to avoid any suggestion that the court or court officials are promoting the event.

The Committee noted that according to Canon 4(C)(3) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge may not participate in the fund raising activities of a charitable or educational organization, and may not be the guest of honor at the organization’s fund raising event. However, the Committee finds nothing in the Code that bars a retired judge from being the speaker or guest of honor at such an event. The Committee also noted that the commentary to Canon 4(C)(3) states that a sitting judge may purchase tickets and attend such an event, but may not be a speaker at the fundraising event.

It is the opinion of the Committee that a sitting judge may not be a “roaster” (guest of honor) at a fund raising event. The Committee also concludes that it would be improper to include the names of sitting circuit judges in the program. Such an indication would lend the support of the judicial office to the fund raising activities of a private group.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 10, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced today that it had censured former Circuit Judge Fred D. Davis, III of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and found that he is not qualified to seek or hold judicial office in the future. The Commission filed its Final Decision and Order with the Arkansas Supreme Court today.

On or about October 30, 2002 , Judge Davis purchased a new 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche truck. Judge Davis owed approximately $1,795.28 in sales tax on that purchase, which would have been due and payable when he registered the vehicle. Judge Davis did not register the vehicle nor pay the state sales tax due until June 21, 2004 , after being cited for failure to register vehicle, misuse of dealer license plate and driving while intoxicated, first offense, on June 10, 2004 .

Three members of the Commission filed a Dissenting Opinion.

A copy of the Final Decision and Order and a copy of the Dissenting Opinion are attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 3, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to City Court Judge Steven G. Howard of Tuckerman and Swifton, Arkansas. Judge Howard requested an opinion as to whether his service as a part-time Newport City Attorney (City Prosecutor) and as a part-time Deputy Prosecuting Attorney would conflict with his service as a continuing part-time City Court Judge in Tuckerman and Swifton. He stated that he is a part-time Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Jackson County and that Tuckerman and Swifton are located in Jackson County.

It is the opinion of the Committee that Judge Howard’s service as Newport City Attorney (City Prosecutor), which office by definition would not prosecute cases in the towns of Tuckerman and Swifton, would not violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.

It is also the opinion of the Committee that, Judge Howard’s service as Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Jackson County and as a City Court Judge in towns located in Jackson County would be in violation of the Code.

A person cannot be both a judge presiding over criminal cases and a deputy prosecutor in the same county. The Committee is also concerned that when the judge presides in Tuckerman and Swifton he may hear cases brought by other deputy prosecutors who answer to the same prosecuting attorney that he works for.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 24, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to District Court Judge Herbert T. Wright of Wrightsville, Arkansas. Judge Wright requested an opinion as to whether it would be permissible for him to handle felony criminal matters in Pulaski County out of his private practice in Pulaski County. Judge Wright also requested an opinion as to whether he may sit as special judge in other district and circuit courts in Pulaski County.

It is the opinion of the Committee that a part-time judge may not represent any criminal defendants in the same circuit.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 12, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Attorney Kenneth B. Baim of Pine Bluff , Arkansas who was being considered for a judicial appointment by the Governor. Attorney Baim requested an opinion as to whether it would be a conflict of interest to continue participating in financial matters, including maintaining certain financial arrangements with his office that necessitate his continued obligation on long term notes and the acceptance of fees received by the firm after he becomes a judge but for work already performed in his law office. He also requested an opinion as to whether he may continue the employment of his current legal secretary out of his current law office to handle his personal business matters after he is appointed.

The Committee stated that Canon 4(G) prohibits practicing law and Canon 2 prohibits any appearance of impropriety that would include the acceptance of fees, other than what he earned while with the firm, once he has assumed the bench.

It is the opinion of the Committee that maintaining ties with the firm in the form of a financial relationship and the maintaining of an office at the firm for his own personal business would also not be permissible.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.


P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 29, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to District Court Judge David Stewart of Little Rock, Arkansas. Judge Stewart requested an opinion as to whether he may write a letter of recommendation on behalf of a life-long friend who will soon be sentenced in United States District Court on a felony tax matter. He states that he did not initiate the process but was asked by the defendant and his attorney to write the letter of recommendation which contains only his personal knowledge of the defendant. Judge Stewart also requested an opinion as to what constitutes a formal request.

The Committee stated that there is a significant difference between a judge’s letter on judicial stationery recommending an individual for admission to a law school or for a position with a law firm, and a letter to a sentencing judge. The Committee noted that writing the letter of recommendation to the sentencing judge would be in violation of Canon 2(B). The Committee also stated that such a letter has the appearance of lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal interest of a single individual.

It is the opinion of the Committee that a “formal request” means a request from the court, the United States Attorney, or a governmental agency involved in the criminal matter. A request from the individual or his attorney is not a formal request.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JANUARY 19, 2005

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to District Court Judge Barbara A. Griffin of Newport, Arkansas. Judge Griffin requested an opinion as to whether her continued employment with Legal Aid of Arkansas, after taking the district court bench in January 2005, would present a conflict of interest with regards to clients she represents in Circuit and Federal Courts.

The Committee noted that conflict of interest questions except with regard to a specific fact situation that involves prospective conduct cannot be answered. The Committee also addressed the rephrased questions:

“Does my continued employment with Legal Aid of Arkansas constitute a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct?”

“Would it violate the Code of Judicial Conduct for the Staff Attorney in the Legal Aid office to appear before me in District Court?”

It is the opinion of the Committee that Judge Griffin’s employment with Legal Aid of Arkansas does not constitute a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. However, Judge Griffin should be constantly aware of the potential for conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety.

The Committee also stated that the appearance of any employee of the Legal Aid office before her in the District Court should cause Judge Griffin’s disqualification under Canon 3 E(1) because impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The Committee cites Canon 2 as stating that a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities. The Committee considers Judge Griffin’s analogy of the Legal Aid office to a law firm to be a good one. Employees of the Legal Aid office should not practice law in the court on which the judge serves or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court on which the judge serves.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 30, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today announced the final action on a complaint concerning Nashville/Howard County District Court Judge Edwin J. Alford. A Letter of Admonishment was imposed on Judge Alford of Nashville for failing to pay annual attorney license fees by March 1, 2004, which is required by Arkansas Supreme Court rules of all attorneys who serve as judge. Copies of this press release may be accessed on the internet at www.state.ar.us/jddc and then by selecting the “Recent Press Releases” option.

Nashville/Howard County District Court Judge Edwin J. Alford

Judge Edwin J. Alford was issued a Letter of Admonishment for failure to pay annual attorney license fees. Judge Alford’s delinquent payment of license fees resulted in a suspension of his license making him not an attorney in good standing from March 1 to June 4, 2004. Arkansas Supreme Court rules requires all attorneys who serve as judge be licensed and in good standing. This constitutes a violation of Canons 1 and 2A of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct.

A copy of the Letter of Admonishment is attached.

 

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 19, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today announced the final action on a complaint concerning Phillips County Circuit Court Judge L. T. Simes. An Informal Adjustment was imposed on Judge Simes of Helena for inappropriate use of his judicial office in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Copies of this press release may be accessed on the internet at www.state.ar.us/jddc and then by selecting the "Recent Press Releases" option.

Phillips County Circuit Court Judge L. T. Simes

Judge L. T. Simes was issued an Informal Adjustment for the improper use of his judicial office. Judge Simes produced a CD of his inspirational musical performances. The CD was his attempt to inspire young people from backgrounds similar to his to transcend what may have been difficult beginnings in their own lives. The cover of the CD had a picture of the judge in his judicial robes, holding a gavel and identified as Judge L. T. Simes.

The Commission found this to be an unintentional violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission accepted Judge Simes' promise to refrain from selling copies of the CD.

A copy of the Informal Adjustment is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 24, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Circuit Court Judge Craig Hannah of Searcy, Arkansas. Judge Hannah has requested an opinion as to whether it is appropriate to sign an affidavit that will be used in a lawsuit. The affidavit concerns actions that took place while he was an attorney representing clients in a fraud case.

It is the opinion of the Committee that he can sign such an affidavit without being in violation of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct. The Committee states that Canon 2B provides that “….A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interest of the judge or others;….A judge shall not testify voluntarily as a character witness.” However, nothing in the Canon addresses a judge testifying as to nothing but facts.

The Committee notes that in Judge Hannah’s case, the giving of an affidavit to assist a former client appears to be perfectly acceptable. It also noted that while never addressed before Arkansas, this question has been discussed in other states with the majority finding that such affidavits do not violate the Canons.

The Committee concludes that Judge Hannah may execute the affidavit in question.

A copy of the advisory opinion and dissent is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JAMES BADAMI
PHONE 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2004

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today announced that on June 24, 2004 a petition was filed with the Arkansas Supreme Court recommending Judge Fred D. Davis, III be temporarily suspended, with pay from his judicial duties. Davis is a circuit court judge in Pine Bluff.

Judge Davis was arrested on Thursday, June 10, 2004 in Garland County and charged with driving while intoxicated, failure to register vehicle and unlawful use of a dealer tag. These charges are misdemeanors. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission found that the filing of these charges against Davis adversely affects his ability to perform the duties of his judicial office. The Commission recommended to the Arkansas Supreme Court that Davis be temporarily suspended with pay pending the outcome of any disciplinary determination.

The police report indicates that an Arkansas State Trooper observed Judge Davis weaving back and forth in his lane of traffic while driving a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche. He was pulled over due to the weaving of his truck and the expired tags. The vehicle displayed a car dealership tag which expired in December 2003. Judge Davis stated he purchased the truck on October 30, 2002. He also stated that he knew the tag was expired, but that he could not afford the sales tax, as he was having to pay tuition for his kids in college. He also stated he was using the dealer tag to get around paying the sales tax on the vehicle.

The arresting trooper smelled intoxicants on Judge Davis’ breath and observed that his eyes were bloodshot and his speech mumbled. Two field sobriety tests were administered. The first reading first was .13 and the second was .12. A Breathalyzer test (B.A.C.) result was .098. Judge Davis was transported to the Garland County Jail and booked on the three misdemeanor counts.

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has also referred part of this matter to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney. The Commission believes that Judge Davis’ attempts to evade the payment of sales tax and personal property tax in connection with the purchase of this vehicle appears to be a violation of ACA § 26-18-201, a class C felony.

A copy of the petition filed with the Supreme Court is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 15, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Judge John Homer Wright of Hot Springs, Arkansas. He requested an opinion as to whether he could serve as trustee of a life insurance trust. The trust, which was established by a long-time friend, asks that he serve without compensation and be limited to overseeing compliance with statutes and regulations. He is not asked to give investment advice and the counsel for the trust would handle all legal matters.

The Committee stated that the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct is clear and unambiguous: “A judge shall not serve as trustee…., except for the estate, trust or person of the judge’s family….” Canon 4(E)(1). The Code does not allow exceptions regardless of what may appear to be appropriate circumstances.

The Committee has no authority to rewrite the Code or to temporarily suspend its operations. Furthermore, the Committee lacks any basis or power to grant any waivers from the prohibitions of the Code.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 27, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Court of Appeals Judge Terry Crabtree. Judge Crabtree requested an opinion as to whether he could serve on the Sex Offenders Assessment Committee. The Committee is established under Arkansas Code Annotated 12-12-911 et. seq. It is charged with promulgating guidelines and procedures for disclosure of relevant information and the extent of the information to be disclosed including the level of the offender’s dangerousness and the offender’s pattern of offending behavior. The Committee will also develop an evaluation protocol for preparing reports to assist courts in making determinations against an offender and even setting qualifications for the examination themselves.

Although work by a committee such as this one could result in the improvement of the administration of justice, permitted by Canon 4C (2), other factors must be weighed. The guidelines and procedures of this committee and their application in individual cases certainly have the potential of being challenged in court and therefore restricted by Canon 4A which then may interfere with the performance of judicial duties. Another issue of concern is the sometimes allusive “appearance of impropriety” in Canon 2. To the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, the Sex Offenders Assessment Committee is just a bit too close to the law enforcement and prosecutorial side of the adversarial system. This area of interpretation of the Code is often a difficult judgment call.

The Committee stated that the judge should not serve on the Sex Offenders Assessment Committee. Although a judge’s insight on matters addressed by the committee would be very valuable, there are other ways for the committee to obtain the views of the judiciary.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 25, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today announced the final action on a complaint concerning Benton Court Circuit Judge Jay Finch. A Letter of Admonishment was imposed on Judge Finch of Bentonville for inappropriate behavior in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Copies of this press release may be accessed on the internet at www.state.ar.us/jddc and then by selecting the “Recent Press Releases” option.

Benton County Circuit Court Judge Jay T. Finch

Judge Jay T. Finch was issued a Letter of Admonishment for behaving injudiciously towards some witnesses, attorneys and court staff as a result of his temper, which conduct delayed or impaired the dispensation of justice. Judge Finch also made comments to and about other public officials and court staff that were inappropriate. Finally, Judge Finch was absent from work frequently and regularly during 2002 and the first two months of 2003. This conduct was found to be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A copy of the Letter of Admonishment is attached.

 

 

P R E S S R E L E A S E
POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 10, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Circuit Court Judge Ralph Wilson, Jr. of Mississippi County, Arkansas. Judge Wilson requested an opinion as to whether he would be in violation of Canon 4C (3)(b) if he, as president elect of the Kiwanis International Foundation Board of Trustee, solicits funds for Foundation purposes from non lawyers residing outside the State of Arkansas. He will not solicit funds from lawyers regardless of where they reside.

The opinion states that he is correct in assuming that his proposed conduct falls under Canon 4C(3) (b). As noted, judges are allowed to serve as officers, directors, or trustees of charitable organizations. However, the Canons are clear that a judge “.....shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund raising activities....”. The Commentary points out that “A judge must not engage in direct, individual solicitation of funds...” The fact that the person to be solicited to is not an attorney and lives outside the state of Arkansas is of no consequence. The prohibition is clear and no exceptions are provided for as involved in this situation.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.



P R E S S R E L E A S E

POINT OF CONTACT: JIM BADAMI
PHONE: 501-682-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2004

The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion to Circuit Court Judge Mary Ann Gunn of Washington and Madison Counties, Arkansas. Judge Gunn requested an opinion as judge of the Washington and Madison County Drug Court. She asked three questions:

1) Could she permit funds from a private foundation be paid to assist indigent drug court participants in obtaining necessary testing and treatment services during those occasions when funds to continue their participation would otherwise be unavailable;

2) If the proposed name of the foundation “Washington/Madison Counties Drug Court Foundation”, violated Canon 4C(3) (b) (I) or other Canons related to lending the judge’s name or official capacity to a fund-raising activity.

3) Would she be obligated to recuse in the event of adversarial proceedings involving the Foundation or a Foundation board member or others associated with the board.

The Committee noted that there is nothing in the Code of Judicial Conduct that would restrict the use of the Drug Court Foundation funds however, nothing was being said on whether some statute might be applicable.The Code does not prohibit the proposed name of the foundation, and while the Code prohibits the lending of the judge’s name or official capacity to fund raising activity, here it is the Foundation that is the fund-raiser and not the judge.

The Committee stated that the matter of recusal is left to the judicial discretion and arguments of the litigants. And in this instance, the committee agrees that the judge should recuse if there is litigation involving the Foundation.

A copy of the advisory opinion is attached.

 

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