by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Supreme Court has affirmed a circuit judge's finding that Willard Proctor may not run as a write-in candidate for the judgeship from which he was removed for ethical violations.
The court gave Proctor a moral victory in finding he was correct in arguing that a state statute used as part of the justification for the ruling was unconstitutional because it put an additional qualification on the holding of public office. But it was only a moral victory. The Supreme Court said Amendment 66, which established a judicial discipline apparatus, allowed permanent removal from office as a possible punishment. The Court had earlier ordered Proctor's removal. He acknowledged removal was a punishment, but not that it would bar him permanently from running again. "We disagree," the court said.
The Court agreed that any votes cast for Proctor should not be counted.
This is a big case in general terms. It makes bright black letter law that removal can bar future races by a removed judge.The Court used as an example of the distinction its decision that Judge L.T. Simes should be suspended, but not permanently removed for ethical lapses as the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission had recommended.