A lawsuit was filed today seeking the removal of Jim Wyatt from a race for circuit judge in Little Rock on account of an alleged hot check conviction 26 years ago. Wyatt says he can’t recall ever pleading guilty to a hot check charge.
The suit was filed by Chris Burks on behalf of plaintiff Tyray Carr, identified only as a registered voter in Pulaski County. Burks said later he was an African-American interested in strict enforcement of law related to judicial candidates.
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Wyatt, president of the Pulaski County Bar Association, is one of four candidates for the seat to be vacated by Judge Vann Smith’s retirement. Others announced candidates are Andrew Ballard, Tom Barron and Shawn Johnson.
The lawsuit says Wyatt in June 1993 entered a guilty plea and paid several hundred dollars on a hot check charge, one of three naming James Wyatt in records between 1992 and 1994. The lawsuit argues that this constitutes conviction of an “infamous crime,” which, under the Arkansas Constitution, makes one ineligible for holding state office.
Wyatt said the accusation was a surprise to him. He said, “I cannot recall ever pleading guilty to a hot check charge.” He said his father, also named James Wyatt, had faced hot check charges and he’d represented his father after he became a lawyer in 1993. He said he was still trying to sort out the records Burks cited. His 1993 bar number as a licensed attorney, for example, is listed on a 1992 charge in the record attached to the suit. That record calls him a defendant.
Winfield is a defendant in the suit. Other defendants are Secretary of State John Thurston and the Pulaski County Election Commission.