Panel asks high court for judge’s sus­pen­sion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - JOHN MORITZ

Arkansas’ ju­di­cial ethics watch­dog asked the state Supreme Court on Fri­day to tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend, with pay, Sa­line County Cir­cuit Judge Bobby McCal­lis­ter amid crim­i­nal and mis­con­duct charges re­lated to the judge’s in­come taxes.

Ear­lier this week, the Ju­di­cial Dis­ci­pline and Dis­abil­ity Com­mis­sion ac­cused McCal­lis­ter of vi­o­lat­ing ju­di­cial ethics by fail­ing to pay most of his in­come taxes over a nearly 20-year pe­riod.

Soon af­ter, a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor filed crim­i­nal charges of tax eva­sion against McCal­lis­ter and the ad­min­is­tra­tive judge in the 22nd Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit, cov­er­ing Sa­line County, be­gan re­as­sign­ing McCal­lis­ter’s cases.

McCal­lis­ter sur­ren­dered to state po­lice Thurs­day and was ar­rested, charged with four felony counts of fail­ing to pay or file state in­come taxes. He was re­leased on his own re­cog­ni­zance.

Spurred by the fil­ing of crim­i­nal charges, the Ju­di­cial Dis­ci­pline and Dis­abil­ity Com­mis­sion held a tele­con­fer­ence Fri­day to con­sider whether or not to seek an im­me­di­ate tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion from the bench.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from the com­mis­sion, the nine mem­bers unan­i­mously agreed to seek sus­pen­sion un­til the out­comes of the crim­i­nal and mis­con­duct cases against McCal­lis­ter are com­plete.

McCal­lis­ter earns $160,000 a year as a cir­cuit judge, a po­si­tion he has held since 2009.

The high court jus­tices, who are on sum­mer re­cess, still have to ap­prove the com­mis­sion’s re­quest.

Chief Jus­tice Dan Kemp said the court will give McCal­lis­ter’s at­tor­neys un­til Mon­day af­ter­noon to re­spond to the com­mis­sion’s re­quest. A de­ci­sion could be made Tues­day, he said.

McCal­lis­ter’s lawyer, Pa­trick Benca, did not re­spond to a phone call Fri­day. His of­fice has re­peat­edly de­clined to com­ment on the case.

If the mis­con­duct charges against McCal­lis­ter are val­i­dated, he could face a va­ri­ety of sanc­tions from the com­mis­sion. A sus­pen­sion or re­moval from the bench would sim­i­larly re­quire Supreme Court ap­proval.

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