State Supreme Court Justice's Meeting With Scalia Scrutinized

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Courtney Goodson

Since Justice Goodson would not answer in person, we didn’t get any answer to our question about how her meeting with Scalia fulfills some of her obligations under the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, specifically:

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

Rule 1.3 A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.

Harris did say this: “If all it takes is a five-minute meeting with Scalia to curry favor for her husband, then we are all in serious trouble.”

Justice Goodson was elected to her first eight-year term on the state’s highest court in May 18, 2010, but her name on that ballot was Courtney Hudson Henry. Her first husband, Fayetteville attorney Mark Henry, filed for divorce less than a month later.

By then — according to the financial disclosure she filed for 2010 — Justice Henry had started accepting gifts from John Goodson that would add up to more than $100,000 in less than seven months. Before the end of 2011, Henry and Goodson were married.

Goodson is a partner in the Keil & Goodson firm in Texarkana. And while neither Goodson nor his firm is a party to the case currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the question at issue in Standard Fire Insurance v. Knowles goes straight to the heart of Keil & Goodson’s legal practice.

The plaintiffs’ firm has been able to keep class-action cases from being transferred out of Miller County Circuit Court and into federal court, as defendants can do under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, by stipulating that they don’t intend to seek more than the threshold amount of $5 million in damages and attorneys’ fees. And there, according to companies that Keil & Goodson (and other firms) have targeted, the cases languish until it simply becomes cheaper to settle than fight.

Class-action settlements (not jury verdicts) in Miller County have reportedly produced attorneys’ fees in excess of $400 million over the past seven years, but it is unknown how much was paid to their clients.



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