Chris Burks, attorney for the Arkansas Democratic Party, says Judge Phillip Green ruled in Jefferson Circuit Court today that Stu Soffer, a White Hall Republican, couldn’t serve on both the Jefferson County and state election commissions.

According to Burks, Green said Supreme Court precedent dating to 1966 held that there was a conflict of interest between the two positions. Because Soffer already held the county position when he was appointed to the state board, he must resign from the state board, according to Burks’ intrepretation of events.

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A 2017 law sponsored by a Pine Bluff representative also attempted to make explicit the legal prohibition against the dual service. Soffer had told us earlier he believed he was entitled to hold both positions, but that if a judge decided otherwise he’d decide which seat to resign.

Said Burks:

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This is a big win for an active State Democratic Party that tries to enforce ethics and reform legislation across the State and stands up to government overreach.

Soffer held a seat on the state commission appointed by the Arkansas Republican Party. It would choose a replacement.

UPDATE: Soffer disputes Burks’ version of events and there’s no written ruling on file to confirm  precisely what happened. But he said he had resigned from the state election commission voluntarily, which resolved the dispute before the judge was required to issue a formal ruling.

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The judge certainly did not rule I could not serve on both. Court did not convene. I believe the judge ruled Burks did not correctly file; however, the matter was resolved when I voluntarily resigned from the state board.

Burks filed a sloppy and flawed suit without proper service (i.e., no incorporated exhibit provided) and the judge agreed he had no standing in the manner in which it was filed. He did not include all necessary parties. I was not privy to discussions in chambers. We met in the prosecutor’s office and I was shown a 1966 Supreme Court ruling that I understood the judge may have brought with him having dealt with a lot of election problems in his county. The document and what my attorneys [said] made sense and I saw no sense in wasting valuable county legal resources needed to prosecute criminals because if Burks refiled and obtained standing, the ruling would have been introduced.

From day one I have said I would follow the law and if I had to make a decision, I would vacate the state board seat. The Supreme Court ruling I read seemed to me to trump the research that said I was vested and I walked my talk. 

He contended the Democrats really wanted him off the Jefferson County Commission.