Arkansas Judiciary 101: Circuit Court Judges
The 23 Districts that make up the Arkansas Circuit Court are served by some 121 judges who serve six-year terms.
Here in Faulkner County, our five Circuit Court Districts are headed up by the following Judges whose terms began in 2015. Because Circuit Court judges serve 6-year terms, none of the following seats are in play in the 2016 election cycle.
Appointed Judges Cannot Run for Same Seat
Tracking judges who run for re-election in Circuit Court is tricky because state law does not allow an appointed judge to run for the division to which he or she was appointed. To keep up with population growth new courts have been added over the past few years, leading to a “musical chairs” situation because several Circuit Judges here started as appointed judges and subsequently successfully ran for election in a different division.
Meanwhile, judges run for other judicial seats before their current terms are due to expire, leaving vacancies that are filled by gubernatorial appointment if they win those elections. In the 2016 election, sitting Circuit Judge Mike Murphy ran for — and was elected to — the State Court of Appeals; his Division 1 seat will be filled by gubernatorial appointment.
Circuit Judge Mike Murphy
Circuit Judge Troy Braswell
Circuit Judge Charles E. Clawson Jr.
Circuit Judge David Clark
Circuit Judge H.G. Foster
Judge Troy Braswell, elected in 2014, previously served as Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, was a law clerk / assistant to Arkansas Supreme Court and Circuit Court Judges, and had also served as Special Circuit Court Judge.
Sitting on the Circuit Court Division 4 bench is Judge David Clark, who worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney in the 20th and 6th Judicial Districts after graduating law school in 1994. In 2007 Governor Mike Beebe appointed him to the Circuit Court and he was re-elected in 2008 to his first full term.
Judge Clawsom was the only judge out of all five divisions to run unopposed in 2014. Clawson has served as Circuit judge since Governor Jim Guy Tucker appointed him to the newly created District 4 spot in 1995.
Clawson’s cases have recently focused on criminal matters, as well as matters handled in the Faulkner County Drug Court and newly created Veteran’s Court. Clawson volunteered, in addition to his existing caseload, to handle cases from former Judge Mike Maggio’s court during the 2014 JDDC investigation of Maggio, former Senator Gilbert Baker, and nursing home owner Michael Morton.
Clawson also serves as Faulkner County’s Administrative Judge, distributing cases via pre-
arranged agreement among the various District Circuit Courts.
Clawson was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney under Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney H.G. Foster in 1995 when he was first appointed as District 4 Circuit Judge in 1995. In 1996 he successfully ran in the District 3 Circuit and was last re-elected in 2008.
Clawson’s current term as District 3 Circuit Judge runs through 2020.
H.G. Foster defeated Doralee Chandler in 2014 for his current seat in Circuit Division 5.
Foster served as Deputy Prosecuting Attorney before being elected Prosecuting Attorney in 1987 — where he stayed until 2006 when he was named state State Special Prosecuting Attorney and served until 2012. Governor Mike Beebe appointed him to Division 1 in 2013. Judge Foster’s current term runs through 2020.
Division 1 Judge Mike Murphy, elected in 2014, had previously served as Conway City Attorney for 23 years, and also ran unsuccessfully against David Reynolds for 9th District Court judge in 2011. He has served as former deputy prosecutor (20th Judicial District) and also a special judge in circuit, juvenile, and district courts.
A former government instructor at UCA, he was also a law clerk for a US magistrate judge. Murphy, who started as a sole practitioner in 1988, was also founding partner in his mid-size law firm in 1991.
In 2016, Murphy successfully ran (against Faulkner County Prosecutor Cody Hiland) for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, Division 2, Position 2. His Division 1 seat will be filled by gubernatorial appointment because his term there was unexpired.