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Reality court

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Mary Ann Gunn, the former Fayetteville circuit judge who left the bench to create a reality show loosely based on her former drug court known as "Last Shot With Judge Gunn," got a taste of reality herself last week.

Fayetteville attorney W.H. Taylor, who represents three former drug court participants, amended his lawsuit against producers of Gunn's TV show in an attempt to round up copies of videos made of Gunn's court sessions and to put a seal on court files that Gunn had removed from the courthouse after leaving the bench, then returned after objections were raised.

His complaint came with citation of Gunn's own e-mails as judge, dislodged by an FOI request to Washington County. They detail not only Gunn's extensive discussions with TV show producers on producing a commercial enterprise out of her courtroom, but indicate that public employees were put to work gathering and copying information on which shows were to be based. Such activities have been under review by the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, the e-mail indicates, though it hasn't announced any findings yet.

Gunn and others also talked about the potential for participants to earn outside income from the shows even if, as originally envisioned, they were produced while Gunn remained on the bench. Gunn, after some adverse opinions of an ethics advisory panel and the Arkansas Supreme Court, eventually changed course. But Taylor's FOI produced, among others, this note from the sitting judge in May 2010:

"I will continue to set up meetings, phone conferences, court and other relevant matters for your visit, keeping in mind that we need to confirm with appropriate entities that we can indeed conduct drug court and have the proceedings broadcast nationwide. We can discuss compensation after I have briefed you on what has been discussed yet undecided."

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