by Max Brantley
UPDATE ON AN ITEM LAST NIGHT: I now have five different people telling me that they expect Court of Appeals Judge Jo Hart to run for a vacancy on the Arkansas Supreme Court next year and that she's made arrangements with campaign consultants for the race. But I haven't been able to reach Hart herself. She'd run for the open seat for which Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Abramson had previously announced. Other trial court judges are reportedly considering the race.
Court races are only occasionally lively, but they are important. The business lobby is increasingly turning attention to them, in fact, precisely because of their importance.
UPDATE II: Judge Hart called me this afternoon and confirmed that she’ll be making the race and plans a formal announcement soon.
“I’m just convinced that they need some experience on that court and I think I have that experience,” She said. Hart, 68, has been on the bench more than 20 years. Her current opponent has served about a year by appointment. She said she didn't intend to run a campaign that focused on whoever her opposition might be. “I’m just of the firm belief that contested races are good for the people,” she said. “They should have a choice.”
She said she preferred elections to appointment for judges and said her first term was spent on a court with a blend of appointees and elected judges. “I’m convinced the best judges come through election,” she said.
She said it was unfortunate that judicial campaign financing so often depended on lawyers’ contributions, but said she recused from cases involving lawyers to whom she was closest. She noted that she’d contributed significant amounts of her own money to past races and expected she’d do so again this year, though she said she hoped the campaign was more about getting around meeting people than an expensive media campaign.