by Max Brantley
Doug Smith wrote about Brown's effort earlier for the Times.
What interested me about the D-G article was the emergence of Sen. Gilbert Baker as the spokesman of opposition to all Justice Brown proposes. If the article said why Baker was designated as sole spokesman, I missed it.
Could it be that Baker will become the paid figurehead when he's term-limited at the end of this year for a long-rumored organization in the making to take over Arkansas courts for corporate interests, as was done so thoroughly in, for example, Texas? Makes sense. He's been a corporate stooge on anti-union efforts in the past. We'll know in due course.
This is the money (and I do mean money) quote from Baker in the D-G article about Brown's idea of establishing some sort of watchdog agency against improper influence in judicial elections:
“The people don’t like the idea, and if judges want to be thrown out on their ear they will try to eliminate the people’s involvement and eliminate free speech,” he said. “ It’s constitutionally abhorrent, and they know that.”
Can you say Citizens United? The speech and "involvement" Baker wants to protect at all cost is not that of rank and file voters. It is that of corporations with unlimited amounts of money to spend to defeat judges who rule against their pocketbooks. The notion that Arkansas is home to runaway pro-plaintiff verdicts isn't borne out by the evidence. But the corporations prefer to lose none and that's pretty well the system they've purchased in Texas. Why not Arkansas, too? Generally, our state can be bought on the cheap. It's a wonder it hasn't happened already.
Make no mistake, the corporate moneybags don't want strict legal constructionists. They want corporate constructionists. Lawyer after prominent lawyer said the Arkansas Constitution prohibited the cap on punitive damages the Arkansas General Assembly legislated a few years ago. A Lonoke circuit judge — and then the Arkansas Supreme Court — said the Constitution means exactly what it says. For such conservative jurisprudence, Gilbert Baker and his corporate enablers want to throw the bums out.
On this day in 2013 remind me to ask about Gilbert Baker's new employer.
In fairness, I probably should add that, when you talk about "toxic" judicial campaigns it's hard to forget Justice Brown's slashing personal campaign to win a seat on the court against Judge Judith Rogers in 1990. Remember his TV commercials about her office redecoration?