Supreme Court Justice Courtney Henry, a candidate for chief justice in the March 1 election against Judge Dan Kemp, has again stirred criticism of her use of photographs with political figures as part of her social media campaign strategy.
I reported earlier that a complaint had been made to the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission about, for example, Goodson’s posting of a photograph with Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. It’s one of many photos Goodson has posted with Republican political officials. This follows a recent trend by many judicial candidates — though nominally non-partisan candidates — to establish through endorsements (Justice Rhonda Wood used Mike Huckabee) or visits to Republican county committees to suggest a kinship with the now-dominant Arkansas political party.
I don’t think this complaint will get far in the formal ethics regulatory arena. The photo with Rutledge was taken at a reception at the Supreme Court on the occasion of installment of a temporary chief justice, Howard Brill, who’ll serve through this year. The photo has not only been posted on Goodson’s Facebook page but also on the Supreme Court’s own website, along with other photos including Goodson.
The First Amendment protection of association would seem to protect Goodson on any use of these photos in terms of regulatory blowback.
Also, Goodson’s campaign is one thing. But I don’t think the ethics regulators can do a thing about the Supreme Court itself. For example: its routine display of photographs on the judiciary webpage. Of the five photos currently displayed there after a change in lineup late last week, four include Goodson, some more obviously than others, including the photo with Rutledge above and a photo of Goodson (below) swearing in officers of the circuit clerks association.
In her last race for Supreme Court, some politicians objected to Goodsn’s use of photos with them for just the reason you might think: They thought it implied endorsement. A good source tells me former Sen. David Pryor was among those who objected to his appearance in a photo with Goodson.
The intentional use of photos with Rutledge would be well avoided by a sitting justice. Rutledge is a frequent party in cases before the Supreme Court. Just last week, Rutledge won another ruling from Goodson and colleagues in her favor on yet another move to nullify an order by Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in the challenge of state death penalty law.
Just because ethics rules don’t bar certain practices, it doesn’t mean they necessarily are judicious.
UPDATE: A reader notes correctly that Kemp’s Facebook page fund-raiser photos include one with GOP Chair Doyle Webb and his wife, a high office holder in the Asa Hutchinson GOP administration. Sauce for goose and sauce for gander. It’s an ill appearance for both candidates, one of the many down sides of electing judges. But, no, reader, just because everybody does it it’s not OK.