The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today announced it had dismissed a pending investigation of Circuit Judge Wade Naramore of Hot Springs that began after he was charged with negligent homicide in the hot car death of his son Thomas.
Naramore was acquitted in the case, but the investigation remained open for undisclosed reasons believed to be connected to a confidential proceeding pertaining to the question of whether Naramore should be on the state child maltreatment registry. His presence on that list — to which people are added for negligent actions — isn’t specifically contemplated in the judicial code of conduct. But it might have been a consideration for a disciplinary panel considering fitness of a person to be a juvenile judge, which Naramore is.
The Arkansas Supreme Court cut the legs out from under the investigation when it ruled Feb. 23 that a suspension of Naramore should end and that he could go back to work, but no longer hear child abuse and neglect cases. It was anunsual ruling because the court knew the investigation was continuing. The Judicial Commission is nominally independent. Its findings can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Here, the Supreme Court effectively decided the case without hearing evidence, though it had been provided information sufficient to understand what had prompted the delay.
In a lengthy letter explaining the dismissal, an unspecific reference was made by Commission director David Sachar to the maltreatment registry issue.
Because there is no criminal conviction against you and because there was no precedent related to any ancillary issues demonstrating a violation of rule 1.1 or 1.2, the panel voted to dismiss all discipline related allegations against you.
The letter included a detailed timeline of the case to explain the length of the proceeding. Naramore was suspended in 2015 with pay and other judges, including retired judges paid for the work, have handled his caseload. The investigation began in July 2015 and he was acquitted last August, but the confidential matter has continued. KARK and other sources indicate Naramore had appealed an administrative finding that placed him on the maltreatment list to circuit court. The status of that proceeding is confidential. Such cases become public only if a person appeals an affirmation of an adverse finding to the state Court of Appeals.
The letter notes that Naramore had been cooperative throughout and a psychological examination had concluded he was mentally fit to resume work. It said he had taken steps to cope with the trauma from the July 24 death of his child. He forgot the child was in a backseat car seat when he drove to work and only discovered his error on a return to his office from lunch on a very hot July day. The jury in his case heard his anguished cries to police who responded to an emergency call after the discovery.
The letter said the commission had concluded it could not retry criminal cases; that there was no evidence he’d be impaired in serving as a judge, and that the Supreme Court had reinstated him. “Although the JDDC was still considering a novel issue that remained unresolved, the Court granted your relief.”