Posted 4/8/2013 12:00 am
A bill pending in the Arkansas General Assembly could give Washington County Circuit Judge Doug Martin of Fayetteville an edge if he decides to run for another judicial position.
Senate Bill 694 would allow judges who have been appointed and who have served at least a year to use the title of “judge” before their names on the ballot in an election for a judicial office. Now only incumbent elected judges are allowed to use the title when seeking re-election or election to another position.
The bill passed the Senate last week in a vote of 27 to 5 with three senators not voting. It is now being considered in the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives.
State Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, who sponsored the legislation that was written by the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research, said it wasn’t designed to help Martin specifically but all appointed judges who are in his situation.
In January 2011, Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Martin to the position of Associate Judge for District 3 on the Arkansas Court of Appeals to replace Courtney Henry Goodson, who had been elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Then late last year, Beebe appointed Martin to the 4th Judicial District, 2nd Division, which covers Madison and Washington counties. Martin’s term started in January and will finish at the end of 2014.
Lindsey said there are a several people in Arkansas who have been appointed to a judgeship, served at least a year, but then can’t benefit from that experience in an upcoming election.
“The request has come to take care of this legislation from lawyers from all over the state,” Lindsey said.
When there is a judgeship vacancy, “it’s oftentimes hard to find qualified lawyers who are willing to give up their practice, move away from their livelihood to take on a public service judgeship,” Lindsey said. “This, I believe, will help broaden that field because those judges know if I do this, … I know I can use the title of judge.”
An appointed judge still wouldn’t be able to run to succeed himself as soon as the position is open. The appointed judge would have to run for a different judgeship.
State Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, who voted against the legislation, said he didn’t have any major concerns with the bill.
“There’s a difference between going out there and earning the voters’ support with the title and someone just giving it to you,” he said. “And when it all boils down, that’s the reason I chose to vote against it.”
Martin, the Fayetteville judicial appointee, referred questions to attorney Vincent Chadick of Fayetteville. But he noted that state law prevents candidates from announcing if they are running for a judicial position until 12 months before an election.
Chadick said he has been following the legislation. He also said the bill is similar to one that was introduced two years ago, but that bill died in the Senate.
Chadick said the bill, if approved, will ultimately give voters access to more information on what a candidate or potential candidate has been doing for the past 12 months. And he said that when voters have more access to information, it helps in the election process.
Sen. Lindsey, who sponsored the bill, said that he doesn’t know what the impact will be on an election if candidates have the title of judge in front of their names.
“I don’t think it hurts,” he said. “But I’m not sure how much it helps.”