Debate Revived About Switch to Merit Selection in Arkansas

A renewed debate about replacing the election of top Arkansas judges with a merit-based appointive process seems to be gearing up.

An Associated Press article over the weekend was headlined, “Merit Selection of Arkansas Justices Gets New Look.” It said that receptive statements by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (see Gavel Grab),  a recent investigative series by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and controversy over outside spending in the state Supreme Court election two years ago could make merit selection a hot topic for the state legislature.

Republican state Rep. Matthew Shepherd, who in the past proposed a halt to popular election of Supreme Court justices, told AP, “There is no perfect system but I do think that when it comes to particularly my proposal and what I put forward, merit selection serves to better insulate the court from politics.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Democrat-Gazette’s series on big spending by law firms to help elect justices, the Arkansas Bar Association voted to study how best to keep the courts fair and impartial, Arkansas Online reported.