LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As an ex-judge learns his fate for pleading guilty to federal bribery charges, a state lawmaker explains a bill that would eliminate judicial immunity for those who trade decisions on the bench for bribes.
State Representative Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, has proposed a judicial immunity reform bill as part of an ethics reform package the Democratic caucus leaders in both legislative chambers have requested Governor Asa Hutchinson add to the special session agenda.
You can read the full text of the bill, here.
But according to Tucker, it is narrowly tailored to protect independent judicial decision that may be tough calls without providing blanket immunity to those who are breaking the law.
“The law is very specific. An independent judiciary is incredibly important. Judges should be able to make decisions independently for whatever they think is right when they sit on the bench. And it’s just if they take a bribe, that’s one circumstance where they should not be immune. they should be able to be held liable to the people they adversely affect by accepting that bribe,” Tucker said.
Mike Maggio is a former Circuit Judge who pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges. He admitted to U.S. Attorneys that he reduced a jury award in a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit from $5.2 million to $1 million in exchange for a promised $50,000 in contributions to his campaign for the Court of Appeals.
Maggio eventually dropped out of the race under scrutiny about not only the award reduction but inappropriate online comments he made and posts that revealed details of actress Charlize Theron’s adoption in Faulkner County.
Tucker, saying the Maggio case brought the issue to light, because Maggio was dismissed from a civil lawsuit over the jury award reduction, with the court noting Maggio’s decision was an official judicial act, despite it being the result of a crime.
“That’s why we really want this included on the agenda for the special session. We think it would restore some faith in the public when it comes to accountability for government officials. That’s always an urgent matter. That’s why we included it now, because we feel it is important to the public for us to have this particular reform,” Tucker said.
Other proposed bills would address dark money groups funding campaign ads for or against candidates, PAC reforms to address some issues raised by Working 4 You in February, among others.
To read about all the bills involved, click here.
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