I said earlier today that a lawsuit against Circuit Judge Tim Fox was inevitable in the wake of Circuit Judge John Cole‘s recent ruling disqualifying lawyer Valerie Thompson Bailey from challenging Fox. Bailey was disqualified from the May election because of a past suspension in her law license but it turns out that Fox had a suspension too, in 2013 for non-payment of dues. Oops!
Arkansas Business reports this morning that a suit has indeed been filed, asking that Fox be disqualified.
“Personally, I think the decision disqualifying Valerie Bailey is bad law,” Sam Perroni, attorney for the plaintiff in the Fox petition, said in an email to Arkansas Business, “but it is the law until some higher court says otherwise. With Judge Fox’s blessings, his supporters initiated the case against Mrs. Bailey so, ‘for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.'”
The can of worms is wide open. Who’s next? Appeals Court Judge Rhonda Wood, now running for the Arkansas Supreme Court? Wood just issued a statement (see below), basically saying that her brief suspension for non-payment of dues in 2008 was a minor incident because of an honest mistake. And that’s probably true! But a number of these judges probably had perfectly good excuses for their administrative suspensions (Bailey thought she did).
The constitution requires judicial candidates to have been licensed attorneys in the state for six years prior to taking office (or eight years for the Supreme Court). The Supreme Court is likely going to need to weigh in and determine just how strict that requirement is when it comes to lapses and suspensions. Until then, the lawsuits will keep on coming.
Wood’s statement after the jump:
“Earlier this week, news reports questioned my uncontested candidacy for the Arkansas Supreme Court because of an issue with my attorney license dues payment in 2008. I take this opportunity to explain what happened.
“On February 1, 2008, I made a good faith attempt to pay my license fee in a timely manner. I made a clerical error and my timely check was for the wrong amount, $100 instead of $200. As soon as I was notified of my error, I corrected it and paid the remaining amount. Unfortunately, this was on March 6th, three days after the license fee deadline that year of March 3rd. I was then notified I needed to pay a late fee of $100, which I immediately paid on March 11th.
“I take full responsibility for the incorrect payment amount. However, I was never notified of the short suspension until media contacted me this week. My name was not included on the 2008 list of attorneys with delinquent dues. Finally, my license was never revoked, and I have been a licensed attorney in Arkansas since 1999.
“Amendment 80 requires me to have been a licensed attorney the eight years prior to serving on the Arkansas Supreme Court. I have served as a Circuit Court Judge from 2007 – 2012 and as a Court of Appeals Judge since 2013. Both positions also required me to be a licensed attorney for a certain period of time and no person has ever before questioned my qualifications to serve on the bench.
“I believe I meet the qualifications to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court and I am prepared to defend my right to do so. I have admirably served our state, and I look forward to doing so again on our highest court. “