Retired Circuit Court Judge Ted Capeheart of Ashdown has been selected by Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Hannah to decide the lawsuit filed last week by Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth that seeks to stop all preparations for a city mayoral election in 2014.
Hollingsworth said late Tuesday afternoon that her attorney notified her of the selection by email earlier in the day.
“The hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Jefferson County Courthouse,” Hollingsworth said.
Capeheart was the 9th Judicial District West Circuit Court Judge for 26 years before his retirement in 2009.
County circuit judges recuse
The selection of Capeheart was necessitated by the mass recusal of all Jefferson County judges last week.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Jodi Raines Dennis sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court on March 25 in which she recused herself from the case and stated that she is authorized to state that Judges Berlin Jones, Robert H. Wyatt Jr., Bill Benton, Leon Jamison, Earnest Brown, John Kearney and Kim Bridgforth also recuse themselves.
Dennis asked that Hannah assign a judge to preside over the case.
Hollingsworth filed a lawsuit March 25 in Jefferson County Circuit Court against former mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. and the Jefferson County Election Commission among others, alleging a conspiracy to disenfranchise Pine Bluff voters.
Hollingsworth is seeking a court ruling that would halt a primary and general election for mayor, city clerk and city treasurer in 2014. The mayor asserts in her filing that multiple legal bodies have already determined that the next such elections will not be held until 2016.
“I come before you today as a resident and registered voter of our great city, Pine Bluff Arkansas, to announce that I have personally filed a complaint against Carl A. Redus Jr., the Jefferson County Election Commission, Ted Davis, Cynthia Sims and Stu Soffer as well as Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson,” Hollingsworth said at the start of a press conference held on the south steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Davis is chairman of the county election commission. Sims and Soffer also serve on the commission.
Suit was also filed against Lloyd Franklin Sr. as a necessary party because of his filing as a Democratic candidate for city treasurer; against Pine Bluff City Clerk Loretta Whitfield as a necessary party because of her filing for re-election; and against Jefferson County Election Coordinator Will Fox in his official capacity.
Hollingsworth said the lawsuit is necessary to put a halt to what she and her legal team characterized as an attempt to illegally alter the election cycle.