The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced today that formal disciplinary charges had been filed against Saline Circuit Judge Bobby McCallister over information that emerged during his divorce that he’d failed to file federal and state income tax returns a number of years.
UPDATE: Late Tuesday afternoon,a bench warrant for McCallister’s arrest was issued for his arrest on charges of failure to file or pay state income taxes in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. The charges were brought by Special Prosecutor David Gibbons. Special Judge David Laser signed the warrant.
McCallister, 52, who’s been a judge since Jan. 1, 2009, has 30 days to respond and also can have a hearing before the Commission.
McCallister faces action for violation of the canon that says judges should avoid “impropriety” or the appearance of impropriety.
The allegations say McCallister has given testimony in a divorce case dating back to 2015 that he’d failed to file federal and state income tax returns as required by law. Failure to file a federal form is a misdemeanor. Failure to file a state return can be a felony.
Failure to pay taxes, particularly those that support McCallister’s $160,000 annual salary, is “an insult to the integrity of the judiciary,” the allegations say.
An investigative panel — to whose findings McCallister did not respond — found that McCallister had not filed “most years” since 1995. He filed a joint return in 2014 and said he had filed twice during the period. It drew its findings from testimony in court and a deposition.
The statement of allegations said McCallister didn’t file the first year because he didn’t have the money and he “basically panicked.” In recent years, he said tax withholdings from his judicial pay might have been sufficient to cover taxes owed. But asked for a reason he didn’t file, he testified he didn’t have “one that makes any sense at all.”
At a hearing last month, when questioned under oath about past taxes, McCallister took the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination on a number of questions, including tax liability and any agreement on settling liabilities.
The allegations said McCallister’s wife was found to be an “innocent spouse” for all but one tax year and owed no taxes. He did not inform her about the situation. She discovered the problem during the divorce case. The commission subpoenaed state tax records and found that McCallister had filed no more than four returns in 22 years. He faces more than $100,000 in federal tax liens for years in private practice, Arkansas Business has reported.
Attorneys for McCallister were listed on the news release as points of contact. Patrick Benca said they’d have no comment. I couldn’t reach Traci Lacerra. McCallister continues to serve.
Judicial Discipline does not enforce criminal law, but can take a variety of actions against errant judges, including recommending removal from office to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
However, David Sachar, executive director of the Judicial Commission, said a special prosecutor has been appointed to weigh potential state charges in the case. If charges are filed, the Supreme Court could then suspend McCallister from judicial duties with pay until the matter was resolved.
UPDATE: With the filing of the arrest warrant, Sachar can now ask the Commission to meet to consider a recommendation of suspension from judicial duties. McCallister was reportedly out of town at a judicial conference today.
McCallister has been a judge for eight years, the minimum to qualify for future retirement benefits, calculated at 3.2 percent of pay when he leaves office times the number of years served. That would equal $40,960 at his pay today, but he couldn’t draw it until he turned 65. An early payment at 62 is possible, with a 6 percent reduction for each year younger than 65.
UPDATE: Here’s the circuit court criminal charge filed against McCallister, investigated by the State Police.