Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court

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Appellant, who was convicted of rape, filed a pro se petition to correct an illegal sentence under Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-111. The trial court denied the petition. Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court found good cause to reverse without considering Appellant’s arguments concerning the merits of his petition for relief under the statute. The court held that because the judge who ruled on Appellant’s section 16-90-111 petition was, in fact, the prosecuting attorney at his trial for rape, a serious appearance impropriety was created because the judge did not refrain from presiding over a case in which he might be interested. The court remanded the matter so that a different circuit judge can rule on the petition. View "Latham v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Attorney Jimmy Morris was the defense attorney of a defendant charged with first degree murder. The circuit court found Morris in contempt for failing to appear on time for the defendant’s jury trial and fined him $4,000. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err by finding Morris in criminal attempt because the court had substantial evidence with which to conclude that Morris’s behavior constituted a willful violation of the trial court’s scheduling order; and (2) under the particular facts of this case, the purpose of the contempt punishment will be accomplished by the lesser fine of $2,000. View "Morris v. State" on Justia Law

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Sam Perroni filed a complaint with the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission and its former executive director (collectively, Commission) against Circuit Judge Tim Fox, alleging that Judge Fox violated several provisions of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct. A three-member panel of the Commission found no probable cause on the complaint filed against Judge Fox and dismissed the complaint. Perroni then filed a second complaint with the Commission alleging that Judge Fox violated several laws and abused the prestige of his office. The Commission dismissed the second judicial complaint. Thereafter, Perroni filed an original complaint, an amended complaint, and a second amended complaint against the Commission. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court dismissed Perroni’s appeal, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Perroni’s complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because a review of the Commission’s decision lies exclusively with the Supreme Court. View "Perroni v. Sachar" on Justia Law

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In this opinion authored by Associate Justice Rhonda Wood, Judge Wood considered a motion to disqualify filed by Appellees asking that Wood recuse from hearing an appeal and any case involving Michael Morton or his nursing homes. Appellees argued that Judge Wood for Supreme Court Campaign Committee’s acceptance of contributions retained in 2014 from Michael Morton and his nursing homes created an appearance of bias of impropriety for a case that will be before the Court in 2017. Judge Wood denied the individual motion to recuse, holding that, considering the factors and the surrounding circumstances as well as her duty to sit, it would not be proper to recuse from this case. View "Robinson Nursing & Rehabilitation Center v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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Appellant was charged with one count of rape. When Gerald Crow was a circuit judge he authorized the issuance of an arrest warrant for Appellant. Crow also presided over Appellant’s plea-and-arraignment hearing. Crow then left his position as circuit judge. Crow subsequently entered an appearance as an attorney for Appellant. The State moved to disqualify Crow based on his former participation in the case as a judge. The circuit court concluded that Crow was prohibited from representing Floyd. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Crow previously participated in the case “personally and substantially” as a judge, Rule 1.12 of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct applied, and the State’s consent was required before Crow could participate as a lawyer. View "Floyd v. State" on Justia Law

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The parties in this case were Ken Blevins, who was elected as Sebastian County Circuit Clerk in 2011, and David Hudson, who served as the county judge for Sebastian County. Hudson appointed a grievance committee to hear a complaint filed by several deputy clerks working for Blevins alleging that Blevins was sexually harassing them. When Blevins sought to terminate two of those deputy clerks, Hudson appointed a new grievance committee to hear the clerks’ complaints and ultimately ordered Blevins to retain the employees. Blevins filed suit, alleging that Hudson abused the grievance process and made statements during the grievance hearings that placed Blevins in a false light and contributed to his defeat in the next election. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Hudson. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was proper because Hudson was entitled to immunity on all claims raised by Blevins. View "Blevins v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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The Searcy County Counsel for Ethical Government (SCCEG) filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Johnny Hinchey, a Searcy County Judge, neglected his duties of office when he failed to sell and convey a county-owned gravel crusher pursuant to the terms of Ark. Code Ann. 14-16-105. Judge Hinchey answered by asserting that the crusher had been determined to have no value to the County and was sold in accordance with the procedures of Ark. Code Ann. 14-16-106(c). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Judge Hinchey. SCCEG appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in finding that section 14-16-106(c) was the relevant and applicable section to the sale of the crusher because, it contended, the crusher was not determined to be junk or scrap such that the statute would apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the gravel crusher was properly determined to be junk under section 14-16-106(c); and (2) the provisions of section 14-16-105 for sales of county property do not also apply to sales or disposal of surplus property under section 14-16-106. View "Searcy County Counsel for Ethical Gov't v. Hinchey" on Justia Law

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The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission recommended that the Supreme Court suspend Circuit Judge Sam Pope from his duties for thirty days without pay, basing its recommendation on its conclusions that Judge Pope willfully violated Rules 1.1 and 1.2 of Canon 1 of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct. The matter arose from allegations regarding Judge Pope's involvement in a confrontation between the judge and his estranged wife and her male companion at a Walmart. The Supreme Court accepted the Commission's unanimous recommendation of Judge Pope's suspension without pay for thirty days and further concluded that the suspension with its agreed conditions was an appropriate sanction for the judge's conduct. View "Judicial Discipline & Disability Comm'n v. Pope" on Justia Law

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Appellee Theresa Dennie filed a paternity action, contending that Appellant Grady Tracy was the natural father of M.T. and requesting custody of the child, with Tracy having visitation. Tracy filed a motion for the appointment of an attorney ad litem, which the circuit court granted. Prior to the final hearing in the matter, Tracy objected to the circuit court's receipt of the ad litem's report. At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court left custody with Dennie and awarded Tracy standard visitation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Tracy's objection to the admission of the ad litem's report and in admitting the report, as (1) the report's contents and recommendation were admissible by law or the Court's rules, even if hearsay; and (2) the admission of the report did not violate Ark. R. Prof'l Conduct 3.7. View "Tracy v. Dennie" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jack Boyajian, a licensed attorney, was engaged by clients seeking recovery of debts from individuals. The State brought a consumer-protection complaint against Boyajian and his two law offices asserting violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). The circuit court entered summary judgment finding violations of the ADTPA, assessed a civil penalty, and enjoined Defendants from conducting business in Arkansas until the civil penalty was paid. Boyajian appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case, holding (1) the ADTPA is inapplicable to an attorney collecting on debts in the course of the practice of law; and (2) because Boyajian was engaged in the practice of law at the time of the alleged acts, the ADTPA was not applicable. View "Boyajian v. State" on Justia Law