More evidence of the growth of overt partisanship in the Arkansas court system. Behold the program for the Baxter County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner.
Baxter County has a star-studded Republican lineup, Oct. 20 at Twin Lakes Baptist in Mountain Home befitting the strong Republican voter base in that county. A congressman, lieutenant governor, attorney general, party chair and candidates for statewide office are on the program.
Also on the speakers’ lineup: Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice Shawn Womack and immediately after, David Sterling, the candidate hoping to unseat Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.
A reminder: Supreme Court justices run as nonpartisan candidates. Another reminder: Judicial ethics rules suggest that judges and candidates for judgeships shouldn’t engage in public actions that might give reason to question their impartiality.
Would you want to be a Democrat with a partisan-related issue before Justice Womack or possible Justice Sterling? Or Justice Rhonda Wood, who regularly made the rounds of Republican Party events such as these and who also used former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee as a campaigner?
Sterling, it’s reasonable to guess, would have joined Womack and Wood in yesterday’s reversal of precedent to uphold a voter ID law. The law is part of a national Republican strategy to suppress minority voting.
I’d guess Sterling would also join Womack and Wood in saying Judge Wendell Griffen’s religious objection to the death penalty creates a sufficient reason to doubt his impartiality in cases even tangentially related to the death penalty — such as over a pharmaceutical company’s ability to prevent a dishonest purchaser (the state of Arkansas) from using its drug for an unintended purpose (killing people).
Womack is a former Republican senator from Mountain Home. You’d sometimes think a Republican legislative agenda is higher on his list of priorities than impartial justice.