I wasn’t much impressed by the legislation to end election of prosecutors through a partisan process. Republicans, particularly, have managed to retain a strong partisan flavor in offices removed from the partisan process (a change, which, in its early days, had the main intended benefit of cutting the flow of filing fees to the then-dominant Arkansas Democratic Party).
Take Court of Appeals Judge Rhonda Wood of Conway. She made headlines by using Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee as a robocaller for her election campaign.
Consider, too, the Arkansas Republican Party, which once put out a slate of recommended judicial candidates (just in case you didn’t already knew which ones leaned toward the narrow and rigid Republican agenda.)
Lately, I’ve been noticing Judge Wood’s Twitter feed, and those of others. (I’ve moved several of them down to the jump so as not to clutter up this page too much, but you’ll see she turns up at Lincoln Day and Republican-themed events with other Republicans on a regular basis.) Typical is a tweet below to two Republican legislators about a Republican Party event in Baxter County.
I’ll leave it to Faulkner County courthouse watchers to explain all the recent highly partisan intrigue involving Judges Wood and Judge Mike Maggio (another Republican event attendee mentioned on her tweets), Republican Prosecutor Cody Hiland and some recent prosecutions on the other side of the political fence in Conway. Judge Maggio is making rounds of same Republican events, by the way. A typical tweet from a full complement of Republican activities:
Then today came a tweet from Republican gubernatorial candidate Curtis Coleman:
What do you bet Maggio is prepping for a race for Court of Appeals should Wood make a move, as expected, for one of the coming openings on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Party labels? No need to worry about those anymore. And please: you should not let Huckabee endorsements, Lincoln Day dinner attendance, rapt attendance to Republican gubernatorial candidates or touts from Curtis Coleman make you think they’d be anything but purely independent and strictly nonpartisan in their rulings from the bench. Truth is, given the trend in Arkansas, they WANT you to know they’re Republicans — through and through.
The new legislation to make prosecutors run independently will be just about as useful in removing partisan taint from their work. I tend to agree with the old Democratic judge, Wendell Griffen, that judges have a 1st Amendment right to say just about anything, including promote partisan candidates. Is it wise? Is it judicious? Does it build confidence in the system when they do so? You tell me. (That Maggio presumes to higher office is a shocker for more than partisan coloration.)