Rant Re Arkansas Appellate Judges/Justices

13 03 2012

I spend a great deal of time criticizing the appellate judges and justices for a few reasons.  First, I honestly think they are wrong some of the time.  When they are I think it is my right to speak up on the legal and/or public policy reasons that demonstrate their error in judgment. 

Second, and more importantly, I do it for some form of accountability.  No I do not have grand illusions that millions of people read this blog or listen to me speak on the issue.  I understand that maybe I only reach a couple of people but that is enough.  Arkansas elects their judges/justices and needs to know when they are creating law detrimental to the rights of Arkansas citizens.  The criticism is from a sense of understanding what the plights of citizens that live in areas constantly under attack by the police are.  The understanding of how these decisions aren’t just theoretical ivory tower decisions but that they have real life implications for the abuse and coercion the government can exert on its people.  That is why I show disdain for decisions that allow officers to bust down doors at night on a blatant misreading of the rules and provide for no relief.  Even more upset I get at decisions where the court allows an officer to pull someone out of the car because it is late at night and they have a prior criminal record.  Or most recently, the case where the Court of Appeals upheld a stop by an officer who failed to understand the law he is charged with enforcing. 

In a system where we elect our judges, we must be mindful to also keep them accountable.  Their decisions impact the citizens of the State as much as the General Assembly.  For the most part we have some very intelligent and dedicated public servants.  I have no doubt that the members of our appellate courts are qualified and genuine.  I do have doubt that they always make the right decisions and for that I will continue to do my part to hold them accountable.  However, at no time will I condemn them as being anything other than wrong on the particular ruling because we all make mistakes but we need to be held accountable.

To conclude, I will say that at this last AACDL conference we had the privilege of  hearing from Judge Abramson from the Court of Appeals.  Unfortunately, when asked about his particularly egregious decision in Mitchell v. State he declined.  I hope that one day he will face the decision openly and honestly admitting his mistake.  For now, I will trust that he did his best, but made a mistake.


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