The latest slime from the Judicial Crisis Network is an attack ad on State Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Hixson. The Willie Horton genre has come to Arkansas judicial races. It’s disgusting.
Hixson issued a press release last night responding to the ad from JCN, a right-wing advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. that has reportedly spent more than $1 million in the race for a Supreme Court seat between Hixson, incumbent Justice Courtney Goodson, and right-wing attorney David Sterling.
JCN is clearly backing Sterling in the race (they also backed him in a 2014 run for attorney general), and has lobbed most of its attacks on Goodson. Sterling, natch, says he has nothing to do with the group. Dark Money David just benefits from their campaign splurging, that’s all.
The group’s latest attack is precisely the sort of cheap campaign demagoguery that might make a voter wonder whether we should be electing judges at all, criticizing Hixson for following the rule of law in overturning a conviction. The ad says that Hixson is “soft and crime” and “takes the lead” in allowing a criminal to remain “on the run, threatening children everywhere.” The underlying crime was no doubt horrific; what JCN calls “a technicality,” however, is the law that judges are sworn to uphold.
This ad is a rank pollutant in the landscape of judicial elections. Who cares about the rule of law when there’s a scary criminal on the screen? Ads like this are pernicious in a way that goes beyond this particular election. They serve to spook judges, who have to keep winning elections, and would rather keep someone locked up even if the law suggests otherwise in a given case so that they aren’t susceptible to this kind of smear.
JCN has previously been criticized by a judicial campaign ethics watchdog group for attack ads on Goodson that are “false and misleading.” The group sent JCN a cease and desist letter, which was ignored. JCN will keep the slime coming, and Dark Money David Sterling will keep thirstily enjoying the benefits, all the while claiming it has nothing to do with him.
From the press release, here’s Hixson:
Washington, D.C., dark money and special interest groups are trying to buy a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court, and they’ve gotten the message that I’m not for sale. Now they have put together a last-minute ‘Hail Mary’ ad lying about my record on the Arkansas Court of Appeals and exploiting an apparent assault of a young girl for political gain. These actions by the Judicial Crisis Network are disgusting and reprehensible.
The rule of law and the rights afforded under our constitution are not technicalities. The rules apply to everyone and not just the few and the privileged. The motive of these dark money special interest groups is clear: to anoint their favored candidate, David Sterling, to the Court. With no judicial experience or record to run on, one must ask what kind of backroom deal has been made in exchange for the hundreds of thousands of dollars these faceless cowards are spending on his behalf.
I’ve decided more than 2000 cases and written more than 325 opinions during my time on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, and unlike the Judicial Crisis Network, my donors and my track record are open for public inspection. DC special interest groups are attacking me because they know that I cannot be bought. It’s time for the voters of Arkansas to let them know this seat on the Supreme Court cannot be bought either.