Judge weighs in on importance of judicial races

Fogleman: ‘Our ability to function successfully as a court and a judicial branch is totally dependent upon the public’s trust and confidence in the court system.

By Ralph Hardin ralphhardin@gmail.com

The Honorable John N. Fogleman is a judge for the Second Circuit of the Arkansas Circuit Courts, in Division 8, serving Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Greene, Mississippi and Poinsett counties. On Feb. 16, 2016, early voting begins for the March 1, primary. While not receiving the same publicity as many other races, voters will also head to the polls to decide various judicial positions in the Nonpartisan Judicial Elections. In Crittenden County everyone will have the opportunity to vote for two positions on the Arkansas Supreme Court — an Associate Justice position and Chief Justice, while a portion of Crittenden County voters will also have the chance to vote for a Circuit Judge to replace the retiring Circuit Judge Victor Hill. As part of an effort to inform voters, Judge Fogleman (who was re-elected in 2014, and does not face re-election until 2020) recently addressed the Marion Rotary on the upcoming judicial race. Judge Fogleman was also gracious enough to provide similar insight to the Evening Times. “In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (the movie), Gregory Peck, in his argument to the jury says: ‘In this country our courts are the great levelers, in our courts all men are created equal. I am no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in our jury system. That is no ideal to me, that is a living, working reality,” explained Fogleman. “In order for our courts to be the ‘great levelers,’ we as a people, must strive to elect men and women, as judges, not only with the keenest legal minds and with the most experience working with the law but also with the highest integrity.” The judge expressed his wish that voters not take the judicial elections lightly. “What I have to say may well apply to every race that will be on your ballot in March,” he said. “That being said, I am not writing about any elections but judicial elections, because the judiciary is what I know and care deeply about. I hope that as you approach these elections that you will take the time to learn about the candidates; to ask about their experience in working with the law in real life and not just reading about the law in a book; to find out what experience they had in a courtroom fighting for their clients; and find out what you can about their integrity, what it is that makes them honorable and trustworthy people and worthy to be called judge.” Fogleman expressed that foremost, the people have confidence in the integrity of the justice system and its leaders. “When the public loses this confidence in the fairness of our system,” he said. “Disputes are not resolved in a civilized manner, and in extreme examples we have seen riots in the streets. On Jan. 14, 2016, recently retired Chief Justice Jim Hannah of the Arkansas Supreme Court died. In every speech I heard him give he stated: ‘Our ability to function successfully as a court and a judicial branch is totally dependent upon the public’s trust and confidence in the court system.’” Fogleman said Chief Justice Hannah was not alone in this belief. “Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court has stated: ‘The importance of public confidence in the integrity of judges stems from the place of the judiciary in the government. The judiciary’s authority therefore depends in large measure on the public’s willingness to respect and follow its decisions,’” he said. “You might ask yourself, ‘Does it really matter that much who my judge is?,” said Fogleman. “Ask that question to anyone who has served as a juror or a parent who has gone through a child custody battle in court.”

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