Wednesday, March 09, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Welcome, Judge Bailey

Judge Rita Bailey was elected last week to preside over the newly formed Jacksonville-Maumelle District Court. Having easily defeated Democratic state Sen. David Johnson from Little Rock, she will take over in January from Judge Robert Batton, who is retiring after almost 40 years on the bench.

Because of a change in the election law, registered voters get to vote for all district court seats in the county in which they live, and judge candidates only have to live in the county to run, not in the district.

That means Bailey, who lives in Cammack Village, likely won with help from her supporters in the Little Rock area and Wrightsville, where she is district court judge.

The new rules make sense. After all, anyone in the county could one day have to appear in district court, which mostly handles misdemeanors and traffic tickets. Bailey will bring a fresh perspective to the Jacksonville court. “I’m elated, totally thrilled,” Bailey told The Leader on election night.

She will bring her ebullient personality to a court where defendants deserve respect and confidence that their rights are respected and upheld.

Bailey has shown her impartiality in the Wrightsville court and should bring that same judicial fairness to Jacksonville and Maumelle. Congratulations, Judge Bailey.

In another judicial race, Cabot District Judge Joe O’Bryan will have to face Clint McGue in a runoff Nov. 8. McGue garnered more votes than the judge and John Flynn, the third candidate, but not more than the 50 percent threshold required to avoid a runoff.

McGue has been city attorney in Ward for more than 20 years and has extensive legal experience to qualify for the job. He has the temperament to serve the people of north Lonoke County well.

O’Bryan was arrested last summer for third-degree domestic battery. He was suspended by the State Supreme Court while the case was pending. Although the charges were dropped, it seemed like an opportune time for O’Bryan to retire from a high-pressure, often-thankless job that he has held since 1990.

But he chose to run for yet another term. This race will not be decided for another eight months — a good reason to move judicial races from early March to fall.