LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe on Thursday appointed three special justices to the Arkansas Supreme Court to sit in for justices who recused in four cases involving disputes over the qualifications of judicial candidates.
The cases revolve around the question of whether an automatic, administrative suspension within the past six years disqualifies a candidate for a circuit judge position. Amendment 80 to the Arkansas Constitution states that a circuit judge must have been a licensed attorney in the state for six years immediately before taking office.
The appointees are Raymond Abramson of Holly Grove, filling in for Justice Paul Danielson; Woody Bassett of Fayetteville, filling in for Justice Karen Baker; and Todd Turner of Arkadelphia, filling in for Justice Courtney Goodson.
The appellants in the cases are:
—Lawyer Valerie Thompson Bailey of Little Rock, who was disqualified by special appointed Circuit Judge John Cole from challenging the re-election bid of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox because of a suspension.
—Voter John Kelly of North Little Rock, whose challenge to the qualifications of Fox to seek re-election because of a suspension was rejected by special appointed Circuit Judge Sam Bird.
—Leslie Steen, the clerk of the Supreme Court, who is appealing two rulings in which Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen found that a Supreme Court rule requiring the automatic suspension of a lawyer or judge who is late in paying state license fees is unconstitutional because it violates due-process rights.
The Supreme Court has said it will give expedited consideration to the cases. The nonpartisan judicial election is May 20, with early voting starting Monday.