Interesting. They had a bit of trouble last year getting a judge to hear a criminal case in Boone County against Phillip Engles, accused of shooting the proprietor of Unique Treasures during a 2012 robbery in Bellafonte.
The defendant refused to waive allowing Circuit Judge John Putman to hear the case. Engels’ attorney was also representing another man accused of once threatening Putman. The other circuit judges, Gordon Webb and Shawn Womack, also recused. Retired Judge Tom Keith was appointed to hear the case.
I was pointed today to a copy of Womack’s recusal letter, written by an assistant, in which he asked to disqualify because of the “natural” of the case. The letter said a more experienced judge with better criminal background was needed.
The letter was written last August. Womack had already been quietly working on a race for Arkansas Supreme Court for at least two months at the time he said he wasn’t qualified to hear a criminal case. He formally announced this year that he was running for retiring Justice Paul Danielson’s seat. He has no opposition so far. The Republican-controlled legislature, incidentally, has resisted legislation that would amend the law that currently forces judges like to Danielson to retire after terms in which they turn 70 or else lose retirement benefits. Womack, is a former Republican senator and a GOP Party power.
Maybe Womack is boning up this year on criminal law for taking his seat on the state’s highest court. They get some criminal cases now and then. Also cases about the rights of gay people, a matter on which Womack considers himself expert, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court might say. Womack, you’ll remember, favors criminalizing homosexual acts and preventing gay people from being parents.