Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Legal Ethics
by
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

by
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

by
In a per curiam order, the Supreme Court found that court reporter Sheila Russell failed to comply with a writ of certiorari issued by the Court for the completion of the record in the above-captioned case. The Court ordered Russell to appear to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for her failure to comply with the writ. Russell appeared before the Court and entered a plea of not guilty. Accordingly, the Court appointed a special master to conduct a hearing on the matter and to make findings of fact. After a hearing, the special master found that Russell’s failure to comply with the writ was not justified and was contrary to her duties as an official court reporter. The Supreme Court accepted the findings of the special master and held Russell in contempt of court for willfully failing to prepare the instant record in a timely manner and in accordance with the directive of the Court. View "James Tree & Crane Serv., Inc. v. Fought" on Justia Law

by
Appellant, an attorney, was found to be in contempt of court while representing his client in a hearing. Specifically, the circuit court entered an order finding that Appellant was repeatedly warned about interrupting the court and that after multiple oral warnings, continued to interrupt the court. The court ordered Appellant to pay $100 to the circuit clerk's office. On appeal, Appellant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the contempt finding. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's contempt finding where the record reflected that the circuit court repeatedly warned Appellant to refrain from interrupting yet Appellant continued to do so. View "Benca v. Benton County Circuit Court" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff obtained a last will and testament from LegalZoom.com. Before receiving the requested document, Plaintiff agreed to LegalZoom.com's terms of service, which included an arbitration provision. The agreement also provided that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) governed the interpretation and enforcement of the agreement's provisions. Plaintiff later filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that LegalZoom.com engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, among other claims. LegalZoom.com filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion based upon the allegations concerning the unauthorized practice of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred because Arkansas law does not prohibit the enforcement of arbitration agreements requiring resolution through arbitration of private claims when a dispute concerns allegations of the unauthorized practice of law; and (2) any rule prohibiting arbitration of unauthorized practice-of-law claims were preempted by the FAA in this case. View "Legalzoom.com, Inc. v. McIllwain" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
Appellant Harrill & Sutter filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging a violation of Arkansas's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Appellant had previously filed a medical-malpractice action against three physicians, who were employed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Mariam Hopkins was hired to represent the physicians. Appellant subsequently filed a FOIA request asserting that because Hopkins represented public employees, Hopkins's file was a public record. Hopkins refused to allow Appellant to inspect the file, and Appellant filed the present case. The circuit court found (1) Hopkins, her firm, and the physicians were not the custodians for the FOIA request to UAMS or to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees; (2) Appellees did not have administrative control of the public records of those entities; (3) the records sought by Appellant were not public records under FOIA and, therefore, were not subject to a FOIA request; and (4) the litigation files and documents sought by the FOIA request were subject to attorney-client privilege and were work-product. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that FOIA did not apply. View "Harrill & Sutter, PLLC v. Farrar" on Justia Law