Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s decision that Charles Starks shouldn’t have been fired as a Little Rock police officer for the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire has set in motion a new round of legal proceedings in which one thing is certain — more attorney fees.
The city intends to appeal Fox’s decision that Starks shouldn’t have been fired though he didn’t follow all departmental policies in stopping Blackshire for driving a stolen car in February and then shooting him when Blackshire didn’t obey his order to stop the car.
Police Chief Keith Humphrey fired Starks, overruling contrary opinions by four officers lower in the chain of command. The Civil Service Commission upheld the firing. Fox decided that Starks should have been punished with a 30-day suspension and a reduction in pay to entry-level, but reinstated to the force. The city has asked that Starks not be returned to the force until an appeal is decided. Starks’ attorney, Robert Newcomb, wants him reinstated immediately and also asked Tuesday for some modifications to the language in Fox’s order in the case to make clear it followed a de novo review of the case and was not merely an affirmation of the Civil Service Commission’s findings. It’s a legal distinction that otherwise could cause a reversal at the Court of Appeals, Newcomb says. Newcomb says the city’s chance of prevailing on appeal is small and that the appeal could take months. He wants the city to post a bond.
The clock will continue to run on attorney fees. Fox’s order in the case asked for Starks to submit a request for reasonable attorney fees in making his case in circuit court.
The city hired attorneys from the Friday, Eldredge and Clark law firm to defend Starks’ firing. Stephanie Jackson, a spokesman for the mayor, said that because the city attorney’s office represents the Civil Service Commission, it couldn’t present the case against Starks before the Commission and then in Circuit Court. To date, the firm has billed $58,425. It’s impossible at this point to predict the extent of future billing.