Update on the earlier item mentioning developments in the high profile divorce case between Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson and Texarkana lawyer John Goodson, a member of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. John Goodson’s lawyer posed questions today about the justice’s involvement in recent legislation.

John Goodson’s lawyer, Matt Keil, submitted questions today to Justice Goodson about whether she had participated in drafting or communicated with legislators about legislation introduced in the 2019 session to change the definition of marital property for purposes of dividing property in divorce.

One bill was HB 1686, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Collins (D-Little Rock) and Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton). It would have allowed consideration of contributions to a spouse in the appreciation of property the other spouse acquired before their marriage. That bill passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. Another was SB 547 by Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning) and Rep. Chris Richey (D-West Helena). It allowed for consideration of the increase in value of some previously owned property in a property division. That bill passed the Senate and then passed the House with an amendment specifically exempting all previously owned property that had not increased in value. The bill was sent back to Senate committee last week, apparently lacking sufficient support for passage after a do-pass recommendation April 5.

John Goodson’s attorney today also filed a motion elaborating on his contention that Courtney Goodson didn’t need financial support from her estranged husband. Among others, the filing said:

First, Defendant has an annual income of $174,925 or over $14,500 per month. In addition, as set forth in her discovery responses, she has cash on hand in excess of $75,000.

Defendant clearly has the financial resources to support herself and to pay the mortgage, utilities and taxes on the home where she resides as well as pay for her attorney’s fees, costs and any expert witness fees she chooses to incur.

Further, Defendant has not retained an expert witness in this case and only asserts that she wants suit monies to “possibly” obtain an expert to value Plaintiff’s businesses. It would be unreasonable to require Plaintiff to pay for expert witness fees to value his businesses because his businesses are his separate property as they were all acquired before marriage and, thus, Defendant has no interest in those businesses. The Arkansas Supreme Court has made it clear that both the value of Plaintiff’s businesses as well as the appreciation of such businesses during the marriage are his separate property and not subject to division by the Court. 

I’ve mailed questions to parties on the legislative issue.

UPDATE: Rep. Collins replied:

The bill Senator Hammer and I filed this year was the same as one he filed in 2017, long before the case you are referencing. It wasn’t motivated by any specific person or case, just to restore the law to how it had been for 30 years prior to the Moore v. Moore ruling in 2016.

Justice Goodson also issued a statement:

Along with Judge Mackie Pierce who testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I was supportive of legislation that would restore 30 years of precedent to the law. Similar legislation was presented two years ago to the legislature, and I was supportive of it at that time as well. My position on this issue has not changed based upon my personal situation.

Justice Goodson did not participate in the Moore v. Moore ruling that reversed precedent in 2016 and stripped spouses of the ability to claim any increase in the value of pre-marriage property in a property settlement. That opinion was written by Justice Rhonda Wood. It was a split decision, with a couple of those in the majority special justices appointed for this case.

UPDATE: Sen. Blake Johnson said he hadn’t seen or talked with Justice Goodson since the 2018 Labor Day parade in Rector.

UPDATE: Sen. Kim Hammer responded:

I sponsored this legislation in the last session at the request of Judge Herzfeld in Saline County because of cases he had seen and wanted clarity brought to the law. It did not pass then. This session I was asked by the House sponsor to carry the bill on the Senate end because of my past experience with it. I agreed but asked him to start it on the House end because of the load I was already carrying when he asked me. I was never approached by Justice Goodson and asked to run this bill.