A filing today in a Lonoke County divorce case bears on the runoff for state Supreme Court between Appeals Court Judge Karen Baker and Pulaski Circuit Judge Tim Fox.
The filing, a divorce counter-claim by Lonoke farmer Shane Hamilton, seeks divorce from his wife, Lauren, on ground that she’d been having an affair with Fox. Lauren Hamilton, who now practices with the Hilburn firm in North Little Rock, was a law clerk for Fox for two years and left for private practice about three years ago. The lawsuit was filed for Shane Hamilton by Kim Kelley, a Heber Springs lawyer, who until the May primary election was both a law clerk and campaign worker for Baker. She said she had not worked for Baker in either capacity since the primary.
Fox, who is married, would not comment directly on the allegation. “I’ve just always taken the position that personal family business is not open for public discussion — in an election year or a non-election year.” He said he was aware of the filing, but had not reviewed it. He noted Kelley’s past work for Baker and said he saw the filing as “another effort to draw attention away” from his campaigning about the amount of vacation time Baker and her staff took from work at the Court of Appeals. Fox’s website has his ads. Baker has strongly contested the criticism in advertising of her own. Her website has radio ads here.)
Kelley said Lauren Hamilton filed the original divorce suit Oct. 12, on grounds of general indignities. Shane Hamilton responded last week asking that he be granted the divorce on grounds of adultery, but did not specify the third party. He amended the complaint today to be specific. Kelley said the amendment was done because rumors were rife in Lonoke County and the family wanted to be able to respond by referring people to the legal filing. Shane Hamilton is seeking custody of the children.
Kelley said she thought the matter was relevant in the race because Lauren Hamilton now worked for a major law firm and her alleged relationship with the judge should be a factor when other members of the firm appeared in his court. Asked to respond to that, Fox said, “That’s between litigants.”
The news of today’s filing appeared first in a Fort Smith website, Progressive Arkansas, that espouses a point of view generally friendly to Republicans. Kelley said she had no idea how it reached that publication. She said she whispered to the clerk when she filed her amendment today because she knew it was likely to be controversial. She said the Lonoke clerk had already received phone calls about the case.
Kelley said Shane Hamilton had been told by his wife that she wouldn’t contest his ground for divorce. Lauren Hamilton did not respond to a telephone call.