Judicial qualification case headed to state Supreme Court


LITTLE ROCK — A voter who unsuccessfully challenged the qualifications of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox is appealing the case to the state Supreme Court.

A lawyer for John Kelly of North Little Rock filed a notice of appeal in the case on Wednesday, two days after special appointed judge Sam Bird ruled that Fox can seek re-election despite a past administrative suspension for missing a deadline to pay his annual license fee.

Lawyer Sam Perroni said in the filing that Kelly is seeking expedited consideration of the appeal “because time is of the essence with the election scheduled for May 20.”

Perroni also represents Little Rock lawyer Valerie Thompson Bailey, who was disqualified last month from challenging Fox’s re-election bid because of an administrative suspension within the past six months. Amendment 80 to the Arkansas Constitution requires a circuit judge to have been a licensed lawyer in the state for six months immediately before taking office.

Bailey has asked the judge in that case, special appointed judge John Cole, to reconsider his ruling.

Cole’s ruling was followed by challenges to several other judicial candidates with past administrative suspensions, all of whom have been found qualified to run by judges other than Cole.

In two of the cases, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen found that a Supreme Court rule requiring the automatic administrative suspension of a lawyer or judge who fails to pay license fees on time is unconstitutional because it deprives them of their right to due process.

The appeal by Kelly is not the Supreme Court’s only opportunity to get involved in the issue. Circuit Judge H.G. Foster of Conway — who was found qualified to be on the May 20 ballot by Griffen this week — has petitioned the high court to declare that he is qualified to serve.