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Posts Tagged ‘AR House’

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Constitution Optional, Or “Why Doesn’t The Arkansas House Remove Josh Johnston?”

February 6, 2012

If bad mustaches were a crime, he'd be serving life.

If you’ve paid the slightest attention over the last year or so, you already know that Rep. Josh Johnston (R-Rose Bud) was convicted in 1995 of passing hot checks, an A misdemeanor.  (See: Josh Johnston Conviction Order.)  Had anyone other than Johnston known this prior to his being elected, someone — say, perhaps, Steve Choate — could have filed a lawsuit, seeking to keep Johnston off of the ballot.  That lawsuit would have been successful, too, as Article 5, section 9, of the Arkansas Constitution makes it clear that:

No person hereafter convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery or other infamous crime, shall be eligible to the General Assembly or capable of holding any office of trust or profit in this State.

Now, as discussed elsewhere, it does not matter that Johnston pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor rather than a felony.  “Infamous crime” has been defined as more than just felonies; it is any misdemeanor involving an element of dishonesty.  See State v. Oldner, 361 Ark. 316 (2005) (“It can be said that the framers in drafting Article 5, Section 9, intended that an infamous crime be one involving elements of deceit and dishonesty”).

If you are the type who asks questions aloud while reading blogs, you might be saying, “hey, why hasn’t someone sued to have Johnston removed if he’s ineligible?”  That’s a good question, but therein lies the rub; once Johnston was seated by the Arkansas House, he was no longer subject to removal via a lawsuit due to a little thing known as the separation of powers.  After all, once the House has determined, however erroneously, that someone is qualified to be seated as a legislator, allowing the courts to remove an ineligible legislator would step all over the toes of the legislative branch as a co-equal in our tripartite government.

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