The Arkansas Republican Party this week had a party to celebrate the naming of state Party Chair Doyle Webb as general counsel for the Republican National Committee. On hand, and shown here with Webb, is RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.

Several who saw the picture noted in the background  (far right in dark dress) a person who looks a lot like Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood. Judicial elections are non-partisan in Arkansas. But Wood has often aligned with Republicans. She’s used Mike Huckabee as a campaign robocaller and did grassroots campaigning at Republican committee meetings. Back  in the day, some of that campaigning was with her once good friend from Conway, Mike Maggio. He had to drop a race for Court of Appeals for injudicious web comments and also amid a criminal investigation that led to his conviction on a federal bribery charge related to money funneled to his campaign by former Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway from nursing home owner Michael Morton, who had seen a big jury verdict against one of his homes reduced by Maggio. Neither Baker nor Morton was charged. Baker also helped funnel large amounts from Morton to Wood — about half of Wood’s initial campaign money haul — and she thanked Baker for his help when she was sworn in as a justice. She also has been accused of no crime. Wood has twice been tapped to swear in Republican Arkansas electors to cast ballots for president in 2012 and 2016.


Wood didn’t directly respond to my question to affirm or deny her presence at the event, but she did respond to a question about the propriety of a Supreme Court justice attending such a partisan event.

Her response in full:


Cannon [sic] 4.1 Comment 6A

I was also fine with Arkansas Supreme Court Justices who attended Clinton and Obama inaugurations and receptions

The cited comment from the Code of Judicial Conduct comes in a portion of the rules meant to discourage direct connections between judges and political parties:

[6A] Judges, judicial candidates, and a judge-elect are permitted to attend or purchase tickets for dinners or other events sponsored by a political organization.