Circuit Judge Morgan "Chip" Welch

Remember Circuit Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch‘s order that questioned the sanity of a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling allowing attorneys to carry guns in courthouses? It turns out the thin-skinned Supreme Court justices don’t like judges questioning the sanity of their rulings, even when there’s good reason to do so.

But on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered Welch removed from the case. The order came days after Welch nicknamed the high court’s order “Lawyer/officer-of-the-court Carry Opinion” and repeatedly referred to it by the acronym LOCO. In Spanish, “loco” translates to crazy or insane.


The state Supreme Court’s vote to allow lawyers to tote guns in courthouses overturned Welch’s earlier decision. It then fell to Welch, as the original judge in the case, to put the higher court’s order into action.

Welch put some temporary guns-in-courthouses rules in place pending an August hearing to address safety concerns. His rules temporarily allowed guns in the Pulaski County Courthouse but only in the “common areas” on the building’s first floor and nowhere else.


In his temporary order, Welch raised numerous questions that seem pretty important. For example, how can we make sure inmates in the courthouse for their hearings don’t get their hands on these guns? We should note that the high court’s decision excluded courtrooms from the places where guns could be brought.

In its subsequent ruling Monday, the Supreme Court wrote that “there appear to be grounds [in Welch’s order] suggesting potential violations of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct that might otherwise escape the jurisdiction of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.”


The court added:

Potential violations include whether the Judge violated the following rules in the tone, language, and issuance of the order:


Rule 1.2 Promoting Confidence in the Judiciary. A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Rule 2.2 Impartiality and Fairness. (A) A judge shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially. …


Rule 2.3 Bias, Prejudice, and Harassment. (B) A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, or shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.

Comment: [2] Examples of manifestations of bias or prejudice include but are not limited to epithets; slurs; demeaning nicknames; negative stereotyping; [and] attempted humor based upon stereotypes . . . .


The Supreme Court has set a hearing for 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 23, and said Welch may participate if he chooses.

In a text message today, Welch said, “I’m reading through [the Supreme Court ruling] with the help of folks smarter than me. Other than that I have no comment at this time.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Courtney Hudson said she disagrees with granting the matter “expedited consideration” as there’s been no demonstration of “a need for emergency relief that warrants moving this matter to the front of the line ahead of all other parties with business before this court.”

“While unfortunate, the circuit judge’s alleged failure to comply with our mandate in the underlying case is not so extraordinary as to constitute an emergency,” Hudson wrote in the dissent joined by Chief Justice Dan Kemp.


“Let me be clear, I do not condone the circuit judge’s disrespectful tone or the language used in his order. In fact, I share my colleagues’ discontent with the disparaging references,” Hudson wrote.

None too ironic or surprising for that matter was this encounter shared in Friday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by columnist Robert Steinbuch, one of the lawyers seeking to carry guns inside courthouses.

Steinbuch decided to test the allegedly gun-friendly Supreme Court.

“I was greeted by two Supreme Court police officers. (They have their own four-person department),” he wrote. “The duo told me that: (1) they were aware of the court’s ruling, and (2) attorneys would not be permitted to carry guns into their courthouse. Wait, what?”