Justice Goodson Recuses From Tyson Cases After Vacation, Cruise

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson has been in the news quite a lot lately.

Whispers, you’ll recall, reported last Monday that she had enjoyed a “courtesy” meeting with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the same day Scalia and his fellow justices heard oral arguments in a case that will determine the legality of a controversial legal strategy that has been wildly lucrative for Goodson’s husband, Texarkana class-action lawyer John Goodson.

Then on Wednesday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published an article about Justice Goodson’s financial disclosure for 2012, which revealed that she accepted a $50,000 trip to Italy last summer from Fayetteville attorney W.H. Taylor, whom she described (through a spokesman) as her husband’s friend and business partner. She had also accepted a $12,000 Caribbean cruise from Taylor in 2011, according to her own disclosure.

And that prompted the Arkansas Times’ ArkansasBlog.com to point out that Justice Goodson was named in December as the state Supreme Court’s liaison to its Committee on Professional Conduct, which oversees the ethical performance of lawyers.

When Whispers then asked whether any part of that Italian trip was spent on a boat owned by poultry magnate John Tyson or any of his business entities, Goodson declined to give an answer. Tyson Foods Inc. is one of Taylor’s clients, as the Democrat-Gazette noted in its report.

Not answering personally seems to be the justice’s habit, but this time she wouldn’t even answer through Supreme Court spokeswoman Stephanie Harris.

Instead, Harris sent an email saying:

“To avoid even an appearance of impropriety, Justice Goodson has already been recusing from all Tyson cases.”

Harris also sent over a letter from September 2011 in which the justice, then Courtney Hudson Henry because she had not yet remarried, recused from a Tyson case with no explanation.

Justice Goodson told the Democrat-Gazette that she would recuse from any cases involving Taylor and his firm that make their way to the Supreme Court.

Whispers thinks this is a pretty sweet gig: Accept lavish gifts and then use that as an excuse to do less work.