The Arkansas Supreme Court today affirmed a nine-month law license suspension for Bobby McCallister of Benton, whose tenure as a circuit judge ended on account of his failure to file state income tax returns for most years in a 19-year span. He offered as mitigation testimony that he over withheld taxes and thus didn’t benefit financially from a failure to file.
Stark Ligon, director of the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, contested Special Judge Ted Capehart’s finding that a nine-month suspension was sufficient. He said McCallister should be disbarred, noting that he continued his law violations while a judge.
The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Rhonda Wood, disagreed.
We accept the special judge’s findings of fact. The special judge’s order was comprehensive and well-reasoned. We note that McCallister’s conduct occurred while he served as a sitting circuit-court judge. Judges must be held to a higher standard. His failure to file timely income-tax returns over a long period of time had the effect of lessening the public’s faith in the judicial system. For this reason, we disagree with McCallister that the sanction should be less than a nine-month suspension. But a more severe sanction is not warranted either. McCallister has already received discipline related to his conduct occurring while he was a judge. He received the ultimate judicial discipline by having to resign from office.
Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justice Robin Wynne accepted Capehart’s finding of facts in the case, but Kemp wrote he’d have imposed a five-year license suspension. Wynne said he’d have imposed an 18-month suspension.
McCallister resigned his judgeship after the tax case developed and got a probationary sentence in a plea bargain in criminal charges filed in the case.