by Max Brantley
Light start to the day:
* PARTISAN JUDGES: I noted yesterday the highly partisan flavor of Appeals Court Judge Rhonda Wood's Twitter feeds, as well as those of colleague Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway. She's running, though not yet announced, for Arkansas Supreme Court. He's looking to move up to Court of Appeals. The item kicked off some spirited rejoinders from the judge herself (hope I never find myself in her court) and Republican defenders such as Sen. Michael Lamoureux. Judge Wood, who got confused over civil and criminal rules of procedure in a recent case in Conway that she shouldn't have been handling in the first place, plays a little loose with the facts in my case, too. She writes on Facebook and Twitter that I've suggested she has no 1st Amendment rights. Forget for a moment that the 1st Amendment only protects people from government infringement, not from criticism from tabloid hacks. Just note for the record that my original item explicitly said judges indeed enjoyed 1st Amendment protection (meaning against government ethical commission efforts to limit their speech). But, I said, it's probably bad form for judges to act in ways that suggest they have overtly partisan leanings. That's what Wood has demonstrated since she first ran for office with Mike Huckabee robocalling endorsement and, lately, by her round of Republican Party fund-raising event appearances and recent enthusiastic attendance at speeches by the Republican governor of Wisconsin and a Republican candidate for Arkansas governor. Fact is, she wants to be labeled a Republican for political purposes because she thinks it's a winner in reddening Arkansas. And she may be right. I bring it up only to highlight 1) unseemly behavior by a judge and 2) the fallacy of the notion that electing judges or prosecutors without partisan labels somehow insulates these positions from politics and increases confidence in the judiciousness of the elected officials.
Lamoureux defended Wood's GOP appearances as routine campaigning (HE isn't likely to be held in contempt in her court) and a necessity because judges are elected in May, concurrent with party primaries. He has, however, not yet passed along any Democratic events Wood also attended. I leave it to her Facebook page (below) to give you another taste of her bipartisanship. Her cover shot, from her
swearing in selection to be the offficiating judge at the gathering of Republican presidential electors to vote for Mitt Romney, features Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin and, at her left hand, Doyle Webb, the ethics-challenged lawyer and chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party. Will Bond, the Democratic Party chair, is nowhere to be found, of course. But you can see Republican Rep. Jonathan Barnett among several other Republicans in attendance.
* CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL TO NAME NEW LEADER: I hear Arkansas Children's Hospital will announce its new CEO bright and early today to succeed retiring Dr. Jonathan Bates.
* GRADUATION: IT'S NOT OVER UNTIL IT'S OVER?: Got a note overnight that some students at a White County high school who expected to graduate Saturday won't get a diploma because they didn't attend enough days of class in a concurrent enrollment program at a nearby college. High school ended for seniors April 18 and apparently the students took that to mean college courses ended then, too. Nope. Post-graduation work will be required before diplomas are awarded, a correspondent says. Oops. No lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer just yet.