OPINION: Scattershooting: A 4-3 court split, new speaker’s race

When the public announcement was made by the well liked Speaker of the Arkansas House that it was "time to move back" into the seats found in the lower Chamber, things started popping in the state's political scene.

Add to the recent 4-3 split decision of the Arkansas State Supreme Court to reinstate the law license of Williams Asa Hutchinson III, the son of former governor and now U.S. Presidential hopeful, Asa Hutchinson, and it's a week of solid short takes for sure.


First, we all wish House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) all the best in stepping down from the speaker's podium and back into the gallery of the House.

While serving a record three times as the chief executive officer of the state House, that job is akin to herding 99 cats toward a door – Shepherd has done well in that role.

Even in this past session when it seemed the topics of the House were always so divisive, Shepherd held firm in running the House with efficiency and decorum – even though many of its members ran vile, often divisive legislation.

We cannot fully fault Shepherd for the recent failure to take a second vote on the "emergency clauses" in the past session.

He seems to have wanted our new governor to have a smooth session, even if it meant he let down the standards just a bit to please her and her aggressive legislative program.


Those leaving the House to date include Rep. Mark Berry, R-Ozark, whom we have come to admire in his herculean task of running one of the large committees in the Legislature and doing so well. His long-time service in the military and national guard seems to have been beneficial in doing so. He leaves the House with our best wishes.

Rep. Lanny Fite, R-Benton, who has of late focused all his attention on matters over at the former Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), will no doubt leave a "gap" for all the work he has done.

Unless Fite, like many past legislators, will be hired to a short-time state job over there to build up a state retirement requirement. Not a bad choice, we might add.

It was interesting that Bob Ballinger Jr., the son of "Bullet" Bob Ballinger, a former state Senator from Berryville, said he may run for the spot held by Rep. Berry. And in young Ballinger's almost denial he is running, he managed to get the state's largest newspaper to show off his qualifications as a rural firefighter and possible regional candidate.


We hear of other solons looking to possibly retire as the overall "tenor" of the lower chamber is fraught with first-time legislators' being "hell bent on being mean to others," often even in their own party. Many of the freshmen this past session were not willing to play nice in the congressional caucuses within the state's primary party – the Republican Party these days.


And lastly, and disgustedly, we come to the 4-3 split on the Arkansas State Supreme Court to reinstate the law license of William Asa Hutchinson III of Rogers, son of former governor and presidential hopeful Asa Hutchinson.

The three members dissenting in the court's decision, Justices Courtney Henry, Robin Wynne and Karen Baker.

The state Supreme Court reinstated the law license after finding "grave concerns" in the uniformity with which such matters are handled.

Dissenting justices, led by Justice Courtney Henry, pulled no punches in their disagreement as they strongly rebuked the majority and Hutchinson's history of run-ins with the law.

In her dissent, Justice Henry wrote: "Notably, this is not Hutchinson's first encounter of its kind. In fact, it is not even the second, third, or fourth incident of similar misconduct. This is his fifth such soiree with law enforcement over seven years' time; Hutchinson's pattern of misconduct illustrates his flagrant disregard for the law and for his status as an officer of the court. Enough is enough.''

We could not agree more.

We fear, as thinking folks do, that this repeated drunken driving behavior can only lead to a tragic outcome in the future be the man a licensed attorney, ditch digger or school teacher.

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author.