Pulaski circuit judges have sent to the Arkansas Supreme Court a case assignment plan that had drawn sharp criticism from Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.
UPDATE: Jegley today objected to the Supreme Court. He expanded on his criticism of the current drug court overseen by Judge Mary McGowan. He called it a “train wreck.’
The Supreme Court could consider the plan as early as its conference today. The Supreme Court last year failed to approve an assignment plan for the 17 divisions of
This year, the judges have come up with a plan to create a new division of drug court because of problems with the existing drug court operated by Judge Mary McGowan. Jegley hasn’t sent a drug court case there in 14 months. He’s cited a poor record of the court as well as abusive treatment of people in court by the judge, a criticism she’s stoutly denied. However, her court demeanor led to one past reprimand of the judge by the state judicial discipline agency and also was an element in an opponent’s unsuccessful challenge of a re-election bid. Sources have confirmed to me that the judicial agency is reviewing a similar current complaint. The judge has categorically disputed all the criticism. She’s also been cited for undue delay in handling a case.
To get around the Jegley-McGowan impasse, the judges propose to create a new drug court, overseen by Judge Patti James. McGowan would continue to supervise drug court cases she already had. Jegley told the Democrat-Gazette earlier this week that he couldn’t staff two drug courts in addition to other obligations and that it also stretched others, such as the public defender.
Jegley objected in a letter sent to the Supreme Court this morning
He said the drug court “remains a train wreck.” He noted a 2014 Arkansas Community Correction Department study that found policies in the court that may negatively affect recidivism rates, based on a review of 2009 defendants. Nearly 10 years later, he said the problems “remain unaddressed.” He said he had taken the “uncomfortable but necessary step of calling the current drug court catastrophe to a halt.” He said problems observed then haven’t been addressed and may have gotten worse.
He said he’d carefully reviewed the new case plan, but decided he couldn’t commit additional staff. He said he suspected Judge James and the public defender might also have difficulty meeting the additional work.
Jegley said he objected to a “piecemeal, patchwork and unworkable propose at the expense of the already thin resources of this office. The solution is simple: reconstitute the Sixth District’s Drug Court with new leadership which will conduct the program consistent with proved and successful models and protocols.”
He said he’d continue to refuse to put new cases in the drug court.
Jegley closed by saying it was false to describe the matter as a personality conflict with McGown.
“I will not take up volumes more pages outlining the disturbing and problematic difficulties with which this office has been forced to contend in Ninth Division. Believe me, they are formidable. But to cheapen the problem of addiction and the need for successful treatment of addicts by claiming this is some mere personal clash is not just wrong, it is unfathomable.”