Lawyers bickering with lawyers! Judicial candidates potentially disqualified! Calls for the Supreme Court to step in!
The beat goes on in the kerfuffle over suspended law licenses, as Blue Hog Report lists of a whopping 59 currently sitting district, circuit, and Court of Appeals judges who have had their licence suspended for failure to pay bar dues within the timeframe that would arguably have disqualified from running in the first place (or running for re-election).
Some of those judges may end up facing a lawsuit in the wake of the recent ruling by Judge John Cole disqualifying attorney Valerie Bailey from running for a 6th Judicial District because Bailey’s license had been suspended for failing to complete a required annual legal education course. 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). That Bailey’s suspension was because of administrative nature rather than for misconduct was irrelevant, Cole found. “A suspension is a suspension is a suspension,” he said from the bench.
Cole’s ruling inspired copycat lawsuits against other candidates who had administrative suspensions for failure to pay bar dues, including suits against the incumbent Bailey sought to challenge, Circuit Judge Tim Fox, as well as against Judge H.G. Foster and attorney Angela Byrd. A suit against Appeals Court Judge Rhonda Wood, now running for the Arkansas Supreme Court could be next.
As we noted last week, the Supreme Court is probably going to need to step in and rule on precisely what counts as being licensed for X number of years and what doesn’t. Both Foster and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel have called for just that.
Given all these sitting judges with past suspensions, one question lingering in this can of worms is whether judges have been practicing with a suspended license. Could that potentially open up avenues for appeal in criminal or other cases? Any attorneys, feel free to give your thoughts in the comments.
While I’m an absent-minded type and feel a little sympathy for these folks that were a day late or a dollar short several years ago, my free advice to anyone considering running for a judicial seat: pay your bar dues on time!