Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

TOP STORY >>Judge calling it quits

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Circuit Judge Lance L. Hanshaw announced Monday that he will not be a candidate for re-election in 2008, saying he wants to give prospective candidates time to consider running for his position.

Hanshaw, who has served as the Division One circuit judge in the 23rd Judicial District since 1991, said he will complete the present term that ends Dec. 31, 2008. At 69 with almost 30 years on the bench, he says it is time he stepped down.

“I could probably run one more term, but I would be 76 years old when it ended,” he said.

Although candidates for circuit judge may begin raising money for their campaigns in two weeks for the May 2008 election, so far, only one has officially announced.

Sandy Huckabee, Han-shaw’s son-in-law, has announced for the Division Three seat now held by Barbara Elmore, who was appointed by the governor in July when the Division Three seat was created. Elmore cannot run for another term in that position. Division Two Judge Phillip Whiteaker is running for re-election.

Although Elmore has not formally announced, she said Tuesday that she will run for Hanshaw’s position. “I’ve heard that Chuck Graham (a deputy prosecutor for more than five years) is running but he doesn’t know for what. A judge has to be decisive,” she said. “I’m running for Division One.”

“It’s not that I can’t decide; it’s just a little early in the process,” Graham said. “It’s either (Division) One or (Division) Three. I’m certainly running.”

Graham spoke to The Leader while he was on vacation. He said he would make his announcement when he returns in about two weeks. Whiteaker, who has been unopposed since he won over Cabot District Judge Joe O’Bryan 11 years ago, said Tuesday that he intends to run again and that he will make his formal announcement in about a week and a half. He said he hopes he will be unopposed for this election.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain also has been listed among the likely candidates for circuit judge, but she has not announced.

The judicial elections are non-partisan. Candidates get on the ballot either by a petition of 3 percent of the voters in the last governor’s race or by paying a filing fee of $5,248.

Candidates may begin collecting signatures for petitions on Dec. 2. The petitions must be submitted to the secretary of state between noon Jan. 17 and noon Jan 31. Filing fees are due between noon March 3 and noon March 10.

“I want to thank the great citizens of Lonoke County for having the confidence in me to elect me to this office and then support me in such a way that I have not had opponents during my time on the bench,” Hanshaw said in the press release announcing his decision. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve the people of this county. It has been my goal to be fair, impartial and unbiased, and I believe I have accomplished that goal. Thank you, Lonoke County.”

Admitted to the bar in 1962, Hanshaw clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlton Harris prior to joining the Air Force as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s office. He also served in the Arkansas attorney general’s office before entering private law practice in Little Rock in 1968.

Elected Lonoke County Circuit Judge in 1990, Hanshaw had previously served as district judge (formerly called municipal judge) in Cabot, Austin, Ward and Lonoke for a total of 12 years and had been engaged in the private practice of law in Cabot since 1977.

While on the bench, he was named Outstanding Arkansas Trial Judge of the Year.

Hanshaw said he has had high-profile cases like that of infamous child rapist Jack Walls, the murder of high school student Rodney Spence of Cabot and a ritualistic murder in a cemetery. But it has been the cases involving children that he has found heartbreaking, he said. He plans to travel with his wife Leann when his term ends and spend time with his six grandchildren, three of whom live in Texas. But he is not leaving the bench altogether. Retirement brings an opportunity to serve as special judge in other judicial districts and Hanshaw says he intends to be on the list when one is needed.