I Be­lieve in Sa­line County

Son of fire­man and teacher just wants to serve

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - By Elisha Mor­ri­son el­[email protected]­ton­courier.com

From his lov­ing par­ents to the fed­eral judges he has had the priv­i­lege to work for, one ju­di­cial can­di­date has plenty of in­spi­ra­tion to serve the com­mu­nity he now calls home.

Josh New­ton, who is cur­rently serv­ing out the Sa­line County Dis­trict Judge po­si­tion va­cated by the re­tire­ment of Judge Mike Robin­son, is seek­ing elec­tion as Cir­cuit Judge for Di­vi­sion 3 in Sa­line County.

New­ton was se­lected by Gov. Asa Hutchin­son in July to fill Robin­son’s post for the re­main­der of the term. He can­not run for the po­si­tion be­cause due to his ap­point­ment.

“I was al­ready plan­ning to run for cir­cuit judge prior to (be­ing ap­pointed),” New­ton said, adding it hasn’t changed his plans.

New­ton grew up in Con­way where his fa­ther was a fire­fighter. His mother was a stay-at-home mom un­til New­ton and his sib­lings be­gan at­tend­ing school, when she went back to school and be­came a teacher.

“My child­hood was abun­dant with love but not a lot of ex­tra money,” New­ton said.

His par­ents taught him about faith, fam­ily, hard work and help­ing oth­ers. With a fire­fighter and teacher as par­ents, serv­ing oth­ers was a strong value.

New­ton lives in Bryant with his wife, Shan­non, and their chil­dren, Nash, 12, and Nyla, 10. Shan­non and her fam­ily are from Ben­ton, which is what brought him to the area, though both knew they wanted to live some­where in Arkansas. They met while at­tend­ing UCA, where New­ton earned his un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree.

His grad­u­ate de­gree came from the Univer­sity of Arkansas School of Law.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion,

New­ton was of­fered a job as a ju­di­cial law clerk for Fed­eral Judge Mar­garet Ma­honey in Mo­bile, Alabama. He held the po­si­tion for two years.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity,” he said.

New­ton added it was there the seed was planted that made him want to one day be­come a judge him­self. That time gave him an in­side look at what judges do.

Af­ter his time in Mo­bile, New­ton earned a job as a clerk for Fed­eral Judge Laven­ski Smith in Lit­tle Rock so he and his wife moved to Bryant. At the time, Smith was a mem­ber of the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 8th Cir­cuit. Now he is the chief judge.

Typ­i­cally, clerk­ships like the one for Smith last only one year. New­ton said he was asked to con­tinue for a sec­ond.

Like his first fed­eral clerk­ship, New­ton said his time with Smith was an­other great ex­pe­ri­ence in his ca­reer.

At the end of the clerk­ship, New­ton worked for a fi­nan­cial firm be­fore be­ing hired to work for the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Lit­tle Rock of­fice. He said the of­fice han­dled le­gal mat­ters for the USDA in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi and Ten­nessee. Be­cause the USDA cov­ers a wide va­ri­ety of agen­cies, his work dealt with more than agri­cul­tural law, from con­tracts to lit­i­ga­tion to fore­clo­sure. De­fend­ing a coastal restora­tion con­tract case, New­ton was able to save the govern­ment quite a bit of money.

From the USDA,

New­ton went on to be the le­gal coun­sel for the Univer­sity of Arkansas Di­vi­sion of Agri­cul­ture, which has its own cam­pus and is over the Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion of­fices.

That is where he was work­ing when Hutchin­son ap­pointed him to fill Robin­son’s po­si­tion.

“I was just for­tu­nate he felt I was qual­i­fied and he had con­fi­dence in me,” New­ton said.

New­ton knew Hutchin­son through events with his wife, who is the pres­i­dent of the Arkansas Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which is the main lobby for truck­ing com­pa­nies in Arkansas. She of­ten has to work with the gov­er­nor and mem­bers of state leg­is­la­tors.

Hutchin­son and New­ton share a love of bas­ket­ball as well. New­ton was asked to play in the gov­er­nor’s reg­u­lar game. New­ton feels sports are a great way to get to know who a per­son re­ally is.

New­ton has been serv­ing as dis­trict judge since July 1 of this year. One change he has made is he hopes makes the process bet­ter by giv­ing each de­fen­dant the chance to speak to him and re­ally un­der­stand the process. He doesn’t want his court to just be a place for peo­ple to pay a fine.

“They need their day in court,” he said.

In his role, he han­dles mis­de­meanor crim­i­nal of­fenses and traf­fic court. He also sets bond for cases. In dis­trict court, there are no ju­ries.

As a cir­cuit judge, if elected, New­ton would pre­side over felony cases.

In his role, he plans to lean on the val­ues his par­ents taught him of in­tegrity and fair­ness. He un­der­stands he must be un­bi­ased and set aside any per­sonal be­liefs no mat­ter who is in front of him.

“Jus­tice should be blind,” he said.

For New­ton, if elected, this po­si­tion is where he wants to stay. He said he doesn’t see it as a step­ping stone to higher of­fice.

The elec­tion for Cir­cuit Judge Di­vi­sion 3 will be March 3, 2020. The po­si­tion is cur­rently held by long­time Judge Gr­isham Phillips, who will be re­tir­ing at the end of his term.

Spe­cial to the Sa­line Courier

Sa­line County Dis­trict Judge Josh New­ton stands with Supreme Court Jus­tice San­dra Day O’con­nor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and U.S. Court of Ap­peals Judge Laven­ski Smith, who New­ton worked for when O’con­nor sat as part of a three-judge panel with Smith.

Spe­cial to the Sa­line Courier

Sa­line County Dis­trict Judge Josh New­ton lives in Bryant with his wife, Shan­non, and their chil­dren, Nash, 12, and Nyla, 10. The cou­ple has called Bryant home since 2006.


Josh New­ton is run­ning to serve as Cir­cuit Judge for Di­vi­sion 3 in Sa­line County. He cur­rently serves as Sa­line County Dis­trict Judge.

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