Reader of this blog will note that I have followed with interest the odd Arkansas House race in district 12 (West Helena area.) The resignation of Chris Richey following the primary lead to a strange Democratic nomination caucus where basically four Democrats selected former State Rep. Jimmie Wilson over the concerns expressed by the DPA that Wilson had been convicted of a federal crime.
Since the Arkansas constitution prohibits those convicted of "infamous crimes" for serving in the legislature, it's a slam dunk removal from the ballot right? Not exactly.
In summary, El Dorado attorney Caleb Baumgardner who has very strong ties to the DPA filed one of the most inept lawsuits ever which failed in so many ways - one of which was that he failed to serve Wilson with proper notice. The filing was so poorly handled that the judge through it out "with prejudice" which is fancy lawyer talk for no do overs.
The Republican candidate David Tollett appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court which ruled on this today. In short, they agreed with the circuit court that Baumgernder is the worst election lawyer in El Dorado but gave Tollett a do over saying "we affirm the circuit court’s dismissal but modify it as a dismissal without prejudice."
They go into quite a bit of detail on whether Rule 78 or Rule 41 applies or something. I will let you lawyers argue over all that but in short it means Tollett can file his own case challenging Wilson's candidacy and does not have to be subjected to the ineptitude of Baumgardner.
"Finally, the circuit court did not address the merits of Tollett’s complaint in intervention. Because the circuit court properly dismissed Tollett’s complaint for a lack of service, we will not consider Wilson’s eligibility to serve as a member of the General Assembly," concluded the court.
The Republican Party of Arkansas spokesman Seth Mays tells me today a new challenge is on its way.
"Today our attorneys were affirmed in that our case should not have been dismissed with prejudice by the circuit court. The Arkansas Supreme Court notably did not rule on the merits of Mr. Wilson's ineligibility, which are quite clear. We will be re-filing this matter for an expedited hearing and an unobstructed chance to point out how Mr. Wilson's criminal past makes him unfit for office," said Mays.
Here is hope this new filling is done properly so a court has the ability to rule on the merits of the cases. I a quite certain the members of the Arkansas House are hoping this as well so that they don't have to be put in the uncomfortable position of decide whether to seat Wilson assuming he does somehow win the general election in November.