Panel drops charges after SEA judge resigns from bench


LITTLE ROCK — The state panel that disciplines judges dropped formal complaints Thursday against a southern Arkansas judge accused of abusing alcohol and prescription drugs after he agreed to leave the bench and never again seek a judgeship.

Kenneth Harper announced his resignation on Sept. 30. At the time, the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission said Harper’s resignation would not affect the proceedings against him.

The commission said Thursday it would drop the complaints and forgo a formal hearing.

The panel released letters from Harper to Gov. Mike Beebe saying he would resign and would not start a new term set to begin in January, and to the commission saying a disciplinary proceeding would not be necessary since he had stepped down and would not take office for his upcoming term.

The commission previously reprimanded and censured Harper in November 2011. At that time, the panel agreed to take no further action if Harper agreed to take certain actions to address his problem, but it alleged in September that Harper had not complied with the terms of the agreement.

The charges alleged Harper had been purchasing alcohol, drinking in public and being intoxicated in public since he was censured. The commission also claimed he failed to provide proof of at least weekly attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and had not submitted to alcohol testing.

In addition to alleging that Harper violated multiple rules of judicial conduct, the commission said he may have a disability — alcoholism — that makes him unfit to serve. In his letter to the commission Thursday, Harper said he agreed “that I am no longer eligible to serve as a judge.”

A phone call to a listed number for Kenneth Harper in Monticello was not immediately returned Thursday.