Sarah Huckabee Sanders has now had her first opportunity to appoint a judge to the Arkansas Supreme Court. To no one’s surprise, she placed a hyper-partisan GOP leader in this seat on the highest Court in the state.
- SHS appointed Cody Hiland to the Arkansas Supreme Court
- Hiland is not the only member of the Court who SHS likely controls
- SHS is blatantly seeking control of the Court, another example of her disrespect of Constitutional separation of powers
- Once again, this is bad for democracy, because of how much an independent judiciary matters
Donor records show that Sarah Sanders (via her dad, Mike) bought herself a legislature last cycle. She has been lining up elected officials to bend to her will for many months, and this Supreme Court appointment is no exception.
So who is Cody Hiland, the new Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court?
Hiland is a former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney and Chair of the Republican Party of Arkansas.
No, really—This is about as partisan as it gets.
Sanders’ speech at Hiland’s appointment was riddled with contradictions. She stated he would “interpret the law as it is written” and he has an unparalleled “commitment to law and order.” In the next breath, she celebrated the new conservative majority she was creating by appointing him, and insisted “I know it will have the same effect on our state as it has had on our country.”
To be clear, the effect of our hyper-partisan, bought-and-paid-for United States Supreme Court has been a loss of rights for multiple communities, perhaps most notably reproductive freedoms. This is the effect Sanders seeks to emulate.
Other Seats Under Her Eye
Sanders adds Hiland to a court already riddled with GOP-endorsed judges.
Judge Barbara Womack Webb, wife of Doyle Webb, sits on the court currently. Doyle Webb is a failed lieutenant governor candidate and the former Chair of the Republican Party of Arkansas. Barbara once refused to recuse herself from a case close to her husband, showing an unwillingness to preserve judicial integrity.
Back in January Sanders appointed Doyle Webb chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Scratching his back no doubt gives her leverage with his wife, who has already shown a willingness to bend the norms of judicial impartiality.
Judge Shawn Womack was a far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ State Senator of eight years, eventually serving as minority leader in the Senate. Judge Rhonda Wood serves alongside him. She has a history of campaigning at GOP committees and was endorsed by Sanders’ dad, Mike Huckabee. This adds two willingly hyper-partisan puppets to the list of our new “conservative majority” that Sanders is eager to control.
In total, we can now name four members of the highest court in Arkansas who have a direct connection to the increasingly more extreme state GOP and/or to the Huckabee family itself.
More Bad News for AR Democracy
You might be sick of reading about the Sanders’ administration’s alarming disregard for constitutional separation of powers in our government. We return to this matter because it’s serious enough to repeat, and Sanders continues to disrupt this foundational part of our democracy.
The least political, most independent member of our three-pronged system is meant to be the judiciary. The ability to interpret law and administer justice fairly and consistently, with allegiance to no one but justice and the Constitution itself, is important for the rule of law and for our functioning society. Sanders knows this, otherwise she would not have said so in her appointment speech this week.
With this appointment of a fourth far-right judge to the Arkansas Supreme Court, Sarah Sanders further proves her own willingness to sacrifice our democracy on the altar of partisan power grabbing. This is a self-serving endeavor, just as we’ve come to expect since day one of her administration. We’re still taking bets on what higher office she’s using Arkansas as a stepping stone to access.
No matter how normal these power-hungry politics begin to feel, Arkansans do not have to stand for it. Understand that this behavior has consequences for us all, across the political spectrum. With every chip Sanders makes in the stability of our democracy, the people lose our own power.