by Max Brantley
The Northwest Arkansas Times editorialized today on a topic it reported last week — then-Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn's abusive treatment of a drug court defendant who didn't want to be on TV. Their work followed our initial disclosure of a transcript of the proceeding. (It's worth remembering the proceeding was observed by many other drug court defendants who no doubt took to heart the rough justice Gunn handed out that day to someone who resisted having her life spread on TV.)
It's a tough editorial. The newspaper remains supportive of sharing drug court with the community by TV as a way of highlighting the perils of drug abuse. I tend to believe the perils are clear enough and therapy is best done as a more private matter, but those are propositions on which reasonable people can differ. But what Gunn told regulators about her court procedures and what she did in practice and how she treated defendants are other matters. The editorial says it well in noting that Gunn had singled out an enemies' list — me; defense lawyer W.H. Taylor, who is seeking to prevent public use of court video, and Circuit Judge William Storey, who's insisted on proper maintenance of court records and procedure.
These men, she said, are a small group rushing to criticize her next venture, a private production of a TV show based on her drug court experience.
It’s a safe bet that this “small group” is much larger now.
Taylor and Storey wouldn’t comment on this matter.
If they are indeed responsible for bringing this evidence to light, we thank them along with Brantley. They directed a brighter light in a darker, more secret corner than any televised drug court show ever did.
Drug court showed the public the travails of private people in their struggle against drug addiction. It did much good, we believe. However, Gunn’s actions were an abuse of both power and public trust.