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Judge won't budge

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Although the federal courthouse at Little Rock has been expanded and renovated in recent years, at considerable expense, Judge Morris S. Arnold of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals continues to rent space in a private office building. Public money pays the rent.

For many years, Judge Arnold and Judge Lavenski Smith, the other appellate federal judge in Little Rock, had offices in the private Metropolitan Bank Building because there was no room for them in the courthouse. Since the expansion of the courthouse, Smith has moved there. So did Arnold for a time, but he said he found the remodeled space assigned to him unsuitable. "The place was in total disrepair," he said. He said there was so much dust that he developed a respiratory disability, and that both he and a secretary fell down because the new addition didn't fit properly with the older building.

So Arnold moved back to the bank building. The federal probation office, which had been in private quarters, moved into the space turned down by Arnold, and so, Arnold said, there was no additional rent payment for private space.

Arnold said he didn't know what the rent for his office is. Neither did the federal General Services Administration, which maintains federal buildings. The office of Chief Judge Bill Riley of the 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis said that the administrative office of the U.S. Courts in Washington paid $68,835 annually for Arnold's space in the Metropolitan Building, and would have had to pay GSA $76,756 ($8,000 more) for the courthouse space. But payment from one federal agency to another is merely shifting taxpayers' money from one pocket to another. Public money paid a private vendor is money out-of-pocket.

Ironically, the federal courthouse in Little Rock is now named for the late Judge Richard Sheppard Arnold, who was also a member of the Eighth Circuit Court, and the brother of Morris Arnold.

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