The highest court in the state has joined the anti-democracy brigade! The Arkansas Supreme Court has officially failed its responsibilities to the citizens of Arkansas. Here’s what’s going on.
Created by the Arkansas Constitution in Article VII, the Supreme Court has the power to review state law under the Constitution. Amendment 80 to the Constitution specifies that the Court’s elections are nonpartisan.
It turns out that those responsible for interpreting our State Constitution don’t much care what it says. It’s something they have in common with our Governor.
A few months ago, Justice Robin Wynne tragically passed away. To fill the seat, Sanders nominated Cody Hiland, the former chair of the state GOP party. We’ve already described how disgusting we find this successful attempt to pack the judiciary. Right from the get-go, Sanders proved she doesn’t care about the separation of powers, and Hiland’s nomination reinforced that. She wants to control the judiciary so they’ll rubber stamp her extremist agenda just like the legislature, because she gets whiny when they don’t.
But she’s a political creature, and while we find this strategy anti-democratic, it’s not exactly surprising.
What is surprising is a Supreme Court Justice blatantly supporting a political party.
Last week, Joseph Wood won the chairmanship of the state GOP. Who was there to swear him in?
Supreme Court Justice Shawn Womack.
We can’t emphasize enough how damaging this is to Arkansas’s democracy. Voters expect and have the right to believe their judiciary will take each case as it comes and faithfully apply the Constitution, regardless of personal political beliefs.
How can they expect that when a Supreme Court is openly supporting one party over the other?
Of course, this isn’t the first time Womack has shown blatant partisanship. In his 2015 race for the Supreme Court seat, he received intense backing from extremist groups seeking to criminalize homosexuality and rolling back the rights of gay couples to adopt kids.
In 2018, he displayed a shocking lack of judicial temperament when he attacked Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen after Griffen filed an ethics complaint against the entire Supreme Court. The other six members stayed mostly mum, as judicial ethics require; Womack went on the offensive.
There’s a pattern of behavior here from the justice that’s only become more blatant under Sanders’ leadership.
Is Womack taking orders behind the scenes from Sanders? Will he take cues from the GOP Chairman he just swore in?
We can’t be sure, but here’s what we do know: at this point, separation of powers in Arkansas looks like a distant dream.
So much for constitutional conservatism.