Collective Sigh of Relief Heard Throughout State as Court Rules Judges Aren’t Disqualified

The court also that a Supreme Court rule requiring the automatic administrative suspension of a lawyer or judge who fails to pay state license fees on time is unconstitutional.

The issue initially arose with a voter’s lawsuit challenging the eligibility of lawyer Valerie Thompson Baily of Little Rock to challenge the re-election bid of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox. Special appointed Circuit Judge John Cole ruled in March that Bailey was not qualified because of a past administrative suspension within the past six years.Cole cited Amendment 80 to the Arkansas Constitution, which states that a circuit judge must have been a licensed Arkansas attorney for six years immediately before taking office.

On Wednesday the high court upheld the ruling that Judge Fox was qualified, finding that Fox “remained a licensed attorney during the period of his suspension and his license was not terminated.”

Justice Donald Corbin dissented, saying a plain reading of Amendment 80 indicates that lawyers who have been suspended in the past six years cannot run for positions as circuit judges.

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