I caught some of the Attorney General's debate the other night.Even though I'm personally a McDaniel supporter, I was impressed by the performance of Rebekah Kennedy, the Green Party Candidate
. She had real chutzpa to get up there and stug it out with more seasoned politicians. I caught up with Ms. Kennedy and we did a little interview. This is the first interview I've done in my life - so I was glad she accepted and was gracious enough to answer my questions.
The Hoglawyer: What kind of law do you practice? Do you have any corporate clients?
RK: Work in a firm with over a dozen lawyers. We do pretty much anything on the civil side and very little criminal work. We have corporate clients, individual clients, non-profit clients and government clients. We are also know as one of a select group of firms willing to sue police, schools and other local government agencies and officials. Two of our partners, Greg Karber and Brian Meadors already had that reputation before I joined the firm and it is a tradition we have carries on both together and separately.
Have you done many jury trials?
RK: I have not had many jury trials, although I served as a juror on the same veneer with the panel that decided my first jury trial, which was interesting. I have actually had many non-jury outcomes that I am very proud of, including two that I'm actually free to tell you about. I got a settlement of more than a year's salary for an at will employee who was fired for refusing to help her boss (the mayor of Coal Hill) violate the rights of a citizen who had been ticket for a misdemeanor. Brian and I won a summary judgment against Wal-Mart for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
HL: I see you are against the death penalty. Obviously the law of Arkansas is pro-death penalty and the AG's office vigorously defends the state in death penalty cases as a zealous advocate --- if elected what would you do in cases where the AG defends the state's criminal sentences? -- What about if they pass a new anti-gay foster parent bill and the AG has to defend it - would you zealously defend the state in that case?
RK: As an attorney in private practice I sometimes have to advocate for positions which which I disagree. The Attorney General's office is required to defend death penalty appeals and I will not undermine that. Most criminal appeals are routine and without much legal merit, and while I think the death penalty should be viewed as a violation of the eight amendment in all cases, the United States Supreme Court does not agree. However, as Attorney General I can and will put justice ahead of defending the past wrongs of state officials. For example, I will not object to motions for scientific testing of evidence that could prove a defendant was wrongfully convicted. Just as a cooperate attorney has to remember that she ultimately represents the stockholder, not the Board of Directors, a government attorney has to recognize that she represents the people, not just state officials. While the people of this state have determine rightly or wrongly that it is in their interests to kill or imprison guilty criminals, I believe that very few citizen support throwing up artificial road bocks to the ability of the falsely accused to prove their innocense.
As for the gay foster parents ban, DHS had their own lawyers defend it the last time, and they will probably do so again. In that case I see an opportunity as the Attorney General to advise on the front end that the proposed bill is unconstitutional and their is some reason to believe that it would be struck down. I hope I would be able to stop the legislature from making the same mistake over and over again.
HL: You say there is no difference in the candidates ---- it was said today that McDaniel may be for civil unions for gay and lesbian couples I assume Gunner disagrees the AG of course had little to do with either but do you really think there is "no difference" between these candidates?
RK: Candidates are individual human beings and their are always differences among them. I question though, is whether their are enough important differences (on average or in a given race) between the two major party candidates to give votes reason to believe the world will be different if they elect one as opposed to the other.
Take the issue of Marriage Equality &/or civil unions for example. I think of a mother who called my office wanting to know if she could get her committed partner, with whom she had exchanged marriage vows in her church, excepted from the "overnight guest" restriction in her divorce decree so that she could have her Christmas visitation with her children in her own home without asking her spouse to leave. I had to advise her that the court was likely to view her marriage as a negative change in circumstances, not a positive one, and that guest restrictions were routinely used to prevent Arkansas parents from visiting with their children in the same home with their committed partners.
How will this mother's life be different if Dustin McDaniel becomes Attorney General, even assuming he is able to bring about the type of civil union law he says he supports? First we have to understand what McDaniel means by civil unions. When some people talk about civil unions, they mean a marriage with everything but the name and perhaps some of the dignity associated with the name. But Mr. McDaniel has made it very clear that he supports the (Anti-)Marriage Amendment to our state constitution. That amendment clearly prohibits recognition of a status similar to marriage. McDaniel himself has said that same sex couples should be limited to "particular rights" and that he supports reinstating the ban on gay foster parents. None of that convinces me that the mother I talked to would be able to spend Christmas with her spouse and children if Dustin McDaniel was elected and was able to bring about the policy changes he says he supports.
HL: Do you think the AG has much to do with closing small schools and if so what side are you on?
RK: This is one of those issues on which the AG will pretty much have to defend whatever policy the legislature comes up with. There may be some room for the AG to play a positive roll by facilitating compromise, we'll have to see. For what it's worth, I'm in favor of administrative consolidation that closes redundant bureaucratic offices, not rural schools. That's Jim Lendall's position too.
bviously you got to debate --- your running mate Jim Lendall did not. What constitutional right / case, if any, do you think 3rd party candidates have to debate on public grounds or on public tv?
RK: I believe the actions of the universities in this case are unconstitutional. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of case law against that position. Jim has said that he feel there are better more positive things he can do with his time than fight this issue in the court with a low probability for success. I will support him in that choice. If he changes his mind, I'd be proud to represent him, win or lose. (unless of course I'm serving as AG, which would create a conflict of interests).
HL: The judiciary is now non-partisan in theory. Do you think merely stripping the label off the candidates makes a real difference?
RK: I think pretending candidates are independent when they are actually backed behind the scenes by political party cooperatives is very dangerous and dishonest. It strips voters of the ability to make an intelligent choice in their own best interests. This is especially true when Candidates are restricted from speaking about any issue of substance. We should all thank Wendell Griffen for having the courage to let voters know who he is when he asks for their vote. I wish all judicial candidates would do the same.
HL: Whats up with the k in your name? ( I'm not a serious journalist you know, I can ask nutty questions)
RK: Old Testament, King James, Baby!
HL: What is your favorite color