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The Insider, Dec. 6

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Ducking media

Vice President Dick Cheney's penchant for secrecy achieved even greater heights this week than during a recent fund-raising speech in Little Rock. On that earlier visit, his visit was announced, but public glimpses were allowed only at the airport, where access was limited to accredited media. His transfer from a car to the Junior League Building, site of his speech, was covered by a tent.

Cheney flew into the Little Rock National Airport after midnight Sunday for a duck hunt and by the time he'd departed Tuesday afternoon his unannounced presence escaped media notice save squibs on our Arkansas Blog. At press time, we were still looking for details beyond State Police confirmation that it had provided escort service for the Secret Service early Monday from the airport to a Lonoke County hunting lodge and back again Tuesday afternoon. No hunting accidents were reported.

Judicial shuffle

Little Rock District Judge Alice Lightle, who's been presiding over the environmental court after being appointed to serve out the unexpired term of David Stewart, has decided to run for a circuit judgeship in 2008. (She can't run to succeed herself.) She'll run for the seat being vacated by retiring Judge John Langston. District Judge Herb Wright and Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter also have said they are running for the seat.

POST-PUBLICATION UPDATE: After we went to press, District Judge Lee Munson announced his retirement. Lightle had wanted to run for that seat all along, but not against the incumbent Munson. With that announcement she's decided instead to run for that seat. Hugh Finkelstein, a deputy prosecutor, had already announced his candidacy.

Junket nixed

Circuit Judge Willard Proctor Jr., already under fire in a state audit for questionable management of the Cycle Breakers probation program he set up apart from the state probation program that most judges use, has raised more questions about his management.

Proctor, continuing a practice several years old, is requiring his staff to attend an out-of-state retreat in Dallas on the probation program. He made the staff go to Memphis last year. But when he asked the county to pay for 14 air fares to Dallas for the five-day trip (he said he'd come up with other money, presumably from the court fee-funded Cycle Breakers), his request was rejected by new County Comptroller Mike Hutchens. “This meeting appears to be one scheduled solely by and for county employees; therefore, the necessity of the travel is questionable,” Hutchens wrote. Proctor, who had charged the tickets to his credit card, took the trip anyway. He also fired a long-time court reporter, Neva Warford, because she said poor health made it impossible for her to make the trip. He hasn't returned our calls on the subject.

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