RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – A Pope County judge officially recused himself from presiding over a case involving a warrant he issued for an Arkansas school teacher.
Kelly Young-Franklin is facing contempt of court charges for not paying fines on charges that the Russellville City Attorney wanted to drop five years ago.
She said she paid the fines on time and has a receipt to prove it. Last week, during a Working 4 You story, Young-Franklin spoke directly to Pope County District Court Judge Don Bourne.
“Do not make my life worse because someone is digging into your issues,” Young-Franklin said Thursday, referencing the scrutiny Bourne is under following a series of reports outlining his denial of public defenders to people in his court.
Bourne’s clerk said Monday afternoon that the judge was going to ask the state’s Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to hear Young-Franklin’s case.
Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp approved the recusal Tuesday and issued an order appointing Crawford County District Court Judge Charles Baker to hear the case instead.
State records suggest special appointments in Bourne’s courtroom are few and far between. Since 2018, the state Supreme Court appointed a special judge at least three times. Two orders filed last year on July 26 and October 7 suggest special judges were appointed to preside over specific cases, however, Working 4 You has not been able to confirm that.
Bowen Law School Professor Robert Steinburch could not speak specifically about Bourne, or Young-Franklin’s case, but says a judge recusing him or herself can happen over time for various reasons.
“It’s certainly unusual, relative to the number of cases that those judges handle but I wouldn’t call it particularly rare.”
Judicial guidelines have changed over the years and for a chunk of time, judges were not required to report every recusal to the state’s highest court.
“The judge routinely in most jurisdictions would need, or should, recuse him or herself if there’s an appearance of a conflict, an appearance of impropriety,” Steinburch said.
Young-Franklin is scheduled to stand trial on June 8. Bourne has been under investigation since at least October by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.
Working 4 You has requested from Pope County District Court the number of times Bourne has recused himself from cases, but there has been no response to the request from the court. Bourne has not returned requests for comment.