If Cathi Compton is elected circuit judge next year, as she hopes, she’ll be half of a two-judge family. Legal historians say this is not unprecedented in Arkansas, but it is unusual.
Compton’s husband is U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson. She is seeking the circuit judgeship — mostly a juvenile judgeship — that is now held by Rita Gruber, who is running for the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
Compton’s father was Bob Compton of El Dorado. Now deceased, he was one of Arkansas’s best-known trial lawyers. Cathi practiced with him for 12 years, “then I fell in love and moved up here.” Her law partner now is Tim Dudley, who was a partner of Wilson’s before Wilson ascended to the bench. Neither of them practices in Wilson’s court. “I don’t think I could get a fair shake over there,” she says. Her practice is mostly personal injury, criminal defense and employment discrimination, much the same sort of thing that Wilson did.
Both the bench and the bar have rules requiring a certain confidentiality, but you imagine the rules get tested in a lawyer-judge marriage.
“We talk at home about our work, but very cautiously,” Compton says. “If something is part of the public record, then we talk freely. Other times, we may bounce ideas off each other without identifying any particulars. We’re both ethically bound.”