by Max Brantley
I have no doubt that this coming change in composition explains the quiet business lobby movement underway to establish a financial juggernaut that will produce a uniformly business-friendly bench in Arkansas, on the Texas model.
Brown's 22 years include many landmark decisions in which he played a key role — from the Lakeview school funding decision to human rights decisions such as the overturning of the ballot measure banning adoption and foster parenting in homes with unmarried couples. He's also been a prolific writer off the bench.
His announcement follows.
On September 7, 2011, Associate Justice Robert L. Brown of the Arkansas Supreme Court
announced his retirement, effective January 1, 2013. At the time of his retirement, Justice Brown will be
seventy-one years of age. He will have served as an associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court for
“I have devoted most of my professional life to public service, which I consider to be a noble
calling,” Brown said. “Twenty-two of those years will have been spent on the court, but I have also
served as a deputy prosecuting attorney, legal aide to a governor, legislative assistant to a United States
senator, and administrative assistant to a United States congressman,” he added.
While on the Supreme Court, Brown has written more than 1,220 majority opinions, including
the term-limits decision for congressmen and senators in 1994 (U.S. Term Limits v. Hill), which was
affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, and four Lake View decisions on the adequacy and
equality of the state's public school funding system, beginning in 2002 (Lake View School District v.
Brown is the author of numerous legal articles, including one in 2007 urging the United States
Supreme Court to videotape its oral arguments for public consumption, as the Arkansas Supreme Court
now does, and a second article describing how the Arkansas Supreme Court has expanded individual
rights under the Arkansas Constitution beyond those rights provided under the United States
Constitution. He is also the author of The Second Crisis of Little Rock: A Report on Desegregation Within the Little Rock Public Schools, published by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in 1988, and Defining Moments: Historic Decisions by Arkansas’s Governors from McMath through Huckabee, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2010. He currently chairs the Task Force on Judicial Election Reform established by the Arkansas Bar Association in conjunction with the Arkansas Judicial Council.
Brown noted that by the end of 2016, there will be five new justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court due to an Arkansas law that mandates that justices forfeit their retirement benefits if they seek office past the age of seventy.
“One of my proudest moments on the court occurred in 2008 when the Arkansas Supreme Court, as it existed between 1998 and 2000, was ranked second in the country based on its productivity in handing down decisions, its lack of bias, and the quality of its analysis and frequency that other courts cited its opinions,” Brown said. This was the conclusion reached in a report issued by the University of Chicago and prepared by law professors from the University of Chicago, Duke University, and New York University. “The report was strong recognition of the quality of our work and our decisions,” Brown added.
“Having served on the court for twenty-two years, it will be time in my case to pass the torch to a new member who will bring fresh thought and vision to the job of supreme court justice,” Brown said. “And I look forward to exploring other options in public service, or, as the poet, John Milton, said, to exploring 'pastures new.'”