by Max Brantley
At last a suggestion has been made for an open federal judgeship in Fort Smith, available because Judge Robert Dawson is taking senior status.
The name put forward by Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln is P.K. Holmes, a Newport native and long-time Fort Smith lawyer who's been a stalwart Democrat. He was a U.S. attorney in Fort Smith during the Clinton administration. He's a good pick, based on my long years of acquaintance. He's currently a partner in Warner-Smith-Harris in Fort Smith.
Noted: P.K. is a white male. That heightens the racial politics at play in filling two other vacant federal judgeships in Arkansas -- Judge Harry Barnes' seat in South Arkansas and Judge Jim Moody's seat in Little Rock.
President Obama recently recommended Appeals Court Judge Price Marshall, also a white male, to fill the vacancy created by Judge Bill Wilson's taking senior status. The NAACP has been pressing for black appointments. The senators' first suggestions for the three openings outside Fort Smith were all white, but a black candidate, Texarkana prosecutor Carlton Jones, was added to the three names submitted for the South Arkansas seat after the death of one candidate, Judge Jim Hudson.
I'd say Jones' chances are good. A big question remains about that Little Rock seat, where Denise Hoggard, Amelia Russell (wife of Pryor's chief of staff) and Chris Heller were suggested by the senators. Word has gone out that other candidates might be considered and lawyers have been writing letters, particularly in behalf of minority candidates. Speculation is that a "twofer" -- black and female -- would be highly prized, given white male domination of the selection process so far.