Four judicial races in May ended without a candidate receiving a majority of votes. That required runoffs in the general election Nov. 4. Three have gotten most of the attention.
Circuit Judge, Division 11, Juvenile Court
The judgeship, currently assigned to juvenile cases, pits two candidates who are emphasizing the interests of children and foster rehabilitation.
Cathi Compton, 52, has a wide range of experience in criminal defense, personal injury, employment discrimination and divorce cases. She has also offered pro bono services to families in the Hispanic community. Compton believes she can use the juvenile court to prevent future adult crime by providing, through the court and other avenues, rehabilitation for young offenders.
Melinda Gilbert, 44, currently practices juvenile and family law. She has served periodically as a special judge in the juvenile and other court divisions. Gilbert has also done pro bono work for children, families and the elderly. She says it's important to get the entire community involved in helping kids.
Little Rock District Court, Criminal Division
Alice Lightle, currently sitting by gubernatorial appointment as a judge in the environmental court, faces Hugh Finkelstein, a prosecutor.
Finkelstein, 44, has worked in the Pulaski County prosecutor's office for the last 13 years. He has taught legal courses at the UALR Bowen School of Law and police seminars. He has been endorsed by the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, the North Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association and Ernest Sanders, who ran for the position in May.
Lightle, 54, was appointed environmental judge in 2007 and is a former assistant state attorney general and commissioner on the state Workers Compensation Commission. Lightle wants to take a more holistic approach to rehabilitation. “I want to make sentences mean something to these offenders because right now they don't,” Lightle says.
Both candidates want to implement video arraignments. Finkelstein maintains he is the more experienced candidate, citing his experience in the criminal court. Lightle contends her legal experience, temperament and service as a judge qualify her.
Little Rock District Court,Environmental Division
The race for environmental judge has produced a few unwanted headlines for one candidate, Mark Leverett, 39. A news columnist noted crews using a Baptist church van erecting signs for him. And the Times has reported on his campaign contributions to another political candidate. The state's judicial code of ethics prohibits such contributions by judicial candidates. Leverett said he was unaware of the rule.
Leverett is a Little Rock lawyer who does criminal defense and personal injury work, and has served as a special judge in the district court.
Gary Sullivan, 46, an attorney who has focused mainly on civil law, says the environmental court is one of the best avenues for improving the quality of Little Rock neighborhoods and the safety of the city. “If we can keep all the neighborhoods up to code, then we can improve property values and make Little Rock a safer place,” Sullivan says.
Sullivan has been in private practice for 15 years and has done pro bono work for VOCALS, the Volunteer Organization of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services. He says, if elected, he will close all personal business interests, including his private practice, and work full-time for the court, turning it into a money-maker for the city.
District Judge, Wrightsville
Two candidates, Rita Bailey and Chris Walton, both lawyers in Little Rock, are vying for the part-time job as judge of the district court in Wrightsville, a small community south of Little Rock.