Chief Justice Kemp talks goals

13 01 2017

Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Kemp graciously accepted an invitation to speak at the monthly luncheon of the Pulaski County Bar Association.  He set forth two main topics – civility among lawyers and goals for the Arkansas judicial system.

Chief Justice Kemp spoke passionately about the need for civility in society, and more specifically, among lawyers.  He stressed his desire for attorneys to remain humble after victory and gracious after defeat.  He stated that he would be involved in the Committee on Professional Conduct and wanted to work with Stark Ligon on enforcing the requirement of civility.

This is not the first time Chief Justice Kemp has spoken on the matter and I suspect it will not be the last time either.  There’s nothing wrong with preaching compliance with the rules; however, the last year will be far more renown for the lack of ethical behavior among Arkansas judges and the lack of civility among members of the Arkansas Supreme Court.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.”  Time will tell if the Arkansas Supreme Court’s infighting continues under Chief Justice Kemp, or if the Court is able to provide an example for the rest of us.  I have always found Chief Justice Kemp to be above reproach when appearing before him in circuit court, although I could say the same for the other members of the Court.  When you are king alone it is far easier to remain civil and dispel discord, but the true challenge awaits when there are seven kings with their own opinions on hot button cases or issues.

Chief Justice Kemp also mentioned goals he had for his tenure as head of the Court.  As far as criminal issues go, he mentioned holding criminals accountable and expansion of drug court opportunities.  I cannot remember anyone speaking out against drug courts that has had the opportunity to see them in action.  That being said, I’m unsure what was meant by holding criminal accountable.  I do not see where our system has failed to do that in the past nor do I see where our jails and prisons could withstand a reform that led to an uptick in incarceration rates.  It also concerns me to hear that from someone who is going to be making decisions on criminal appeals where it is clear that a correct legal ruling will result in the criminal going free.  Sometimes the choice will be upholding the law or allowing the criminal to go free.  In those moments, I hope we have elected someone who chooses the law.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

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