by Max Brantley
Back in June, we reported that Pulaski County circuit judges had proposed a new plan for dividing cases among the county's 17 circuit judges. The move had wide press coverage because the plan included, among other changes, a removal of all criminal cases from Circuit Judge Willard Proctor's court division. Judge Proctor (pictured) is appealing a disciplinary committee's recommendation that he be removed from the bench for improper handling of criminal probationers. The assignment plan wasn't developed solely on account of his troubles, but it was a factor .
Back to the drawing board.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has informed the circuit's chief judge, Vann Smith, that it wouldn't accept the assignment plan, which was to take effect in 2010. The Court said it didn't want to create any courts that handled only civil cases, as the Pulaski proposal would have done for Proctor and two other circuit court divisions. Courts may, however, specialize in juvenile, criminal and domestic cases.
A new proposal has been developed and is circulating among judges, Smith said. It would continue the practice of assigning a mixture of cases to the three judges who had been slated to handle only civil cases. If it's approved by sufficient number of Pulaski judges, it will be submitted to the Supreme Court for review. Yet to be determined is the number of criminal cases that would be assigned to each court, Smith said.