The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Emily White can remain on the ballot in her race for the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
White, an appointed district court judge, will not be allowed to appear with the title of “judge.”
White’s opponent, Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett of Texarkana, had filed a lawsuit seeking to disqualify White for the District 4, Position 2 seat.
Barrett contended that White’s filing was defective because she was listed as “Judge” Emily White and she was not entitled to use the title as an appointed district court judge. She could qualify to run with the title judge for Court of Appeals only if she were now serving on that court, the lawsuit argued.
The lawsuit also contended that White is not a legal resident of the southwest Arkansas District covered by District 4. She previously lived in Grant County and moved to Hot Spring County to run for the seat. Though she and her husband bought a house in Hot Spring County and changed her voter registration there earlier this year, the lawsuit alleged that she actually lived in Poyen in Grant County, where her children attend school. The lawsuit further alleged that filing as Emily White was improper because her financial statement and political practices pledge used her married name, Emily Langenfeld.
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that White could remain on the ballot but without the title “judge.”
The majority decision, penned by Justice Shawn Womack, ruled that White resided in Hot Spring County: “she is physically present in Hot Spring County––lingering connections to Grant County do not undermine this point.”
A concurring opinion from Justices Rhonda Wood and Robin Wynne, meanwhile, suggested that a stricter standard should be applied for establishing that White’s “domicile” was in Hot Spring County, but upheld the lower court ruling because Barrett failed to obtain a ruling from the lower court on the issue of a domicile as opposed to residency.
Barrett did bring up that issue before the Supreme Court, arguing that because White failed to “abandon” her home in Grant County, she was still domiciled there. The concurrence from Wood and Wynne suggests that the issue of candidates with dual residency could come up again in future legal battles.