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State of Arkansas

Judicial Campaigns and Elections: Arkansas

Campaign Conduct

According to Canon 4 of Arkansas' code of judicial conduct, judicial candidates shall not:
  • In connection with cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office.
  • Make any statement that would reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court.
  • Knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, make any false or misleading statement.
  • Personally solicit or accept campaign contributions other than through a campaign committee.
  • Publicly identify themselves as candidates of a political organization.
Candidates may establish campaign committees to solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions, manage the expenditure of funds for the campaign, and obtain public statements of support other than from political parties. Candidate committees may not solicit contributions and public support earlier than 180 days before an election or later than 45 days after the last contested election in which the candidate participates.

In 2007, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the code's prohibition on personally soliciting campaign contributions, ruling that judicial impartiality and avoiding the appearance of impropriety were compelling interests and that the prohibition was narrowly tailored to achieve those interests. Simes v. Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission, 06-725 (January 25, 2007).

In 1991, an Arkansas federal court struck down as unconstitutionally overbroad and vague a provision of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct that prevented candidates from announcing their "views on disputed legal or political issues." Beshear v. Butt, 863 F.Supp. 913 (E.D.Ark. 1994). The case involved a judge who made a campaign pledge that plea bargaining was unacceptable to him and would not be allowed in his court.