Two candidates who are vying to be the next appeals court judge for the district that covers Faulkner County said the court needs consistency in law interpretation.
"We really need consistency at the appellate judge level," Candidate Rhonda Wood said. "I want to bring [consistency and fairness] to the state level because I think there’s a need."
As election day nears, both Wood, who is a circuit court judge, and fellow candidate Mitch Cash, Searcy County
district judge, are hitting the campaign trail, shaking hands and meeting people and hoping to convince them to vote for them.
Wood and Cash are contending for the District 2, Position 2 seat that covers 18 counties in central and north-central Arkansas, including Faulkner County. The position is among seven positions up for election for Arkansas’s appellate courts.
The position is nonpartisan and is held by Cliff Hoofman, who was appointed after Justice Karen Baker began her term on the state Supreme Court. Because he is appointed, Hoofman cannot run for his appellate court seat this election, which will be held May 22.
Hoofman’s term expires Dec. 31.
Both Wood and Cash have backgrounds as judges and lawyers, they said. Cash has been practicing law for about 16 years. He spent 10 years as a trial lawyer before being elected district court judge. During his time on the bench, Cash has heard thousands of cases, according to his website.
Wood has been the circuit judge for the 20th District Circuit Court since 2006. Before that, she was the assistant dean of student development at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law, where she taught business law and health law courses. She also owned a private law practice in Conway, according to her website.
Wood and Cash both said they are experienced small business owners. Cash, who lives in Pindall, runs about 120 head of cattle on his family farm near Harrison and owns a carwash. He earned a bachelor’s degree in domestic and international marketing from the University of Arkansas.
Wood earned her undergraduate degree in politics from Hendrix College. On her website, Wood says she owned and operated several small businesses before becoming a full-time judge.
Both candidates believe the court of appeals allows double standards and makes decisions not based on common sense. Cash said laws coming out of the court of appeals are convoluted. Judges need to understand that their decisions affect businesses.
"Laws affect people," Cash said. "They aren’t just words on a piece of paper. We need a greater depth of understanding of our community, jobs and businesses on the court."
Laws should be understandable to everyday people and business owners, Cash said. Wood said the appellate judge should be using facts and basing decisions on research from earlier cases and transcripts from the trial court. She believed she could bring consistency and fairness to the state level.
Wood said her education and experience provide the best background for the judgeship. She sees her work as a circuit judge and, if elected, as an appellate judge as an extension of community service.
Wood created the first Teen Court program in the state, she said. She spends most Monday evenings during the school year running the program, her website said. She also co-chairs the Juvenile Drug Court Committee and was recently appointed to the state’s Legislative Task Force on Abused and Neglected Children.
"You’re not just running for judge — you are running to be a public servant," Wood said.
Cash is a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Valley Spring, and a Gideon in the Harrison camp, he said.
Cash said his experience as a farmer, district judge and businessman makes him the better candidate. He said he had read the books and passed the law tests, but also had experience working outside of the judicial system.
"I’ve got the experience in the real world, in addition to being a judge and a lawyer," Cash said.