Ramsey, Flanagin seek district judge's seat
Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, Carroll County will share a full-time district judge with Madison County. Madison County District Judge Dale Ramsey and local attorney Chris Flanagin are running for the position.
Ramsey explained that the district judge position will be changing slightly. Until this election, Ramsey said, Carroll County has had two part-time district judges. Madison County has had one.
Arkansans voted to have full-time district judges 15 years ago, Ramsey said, and it has been slowly implemented throughout the state since. Ramsey said most counties in Northwest Arkansas have implemented the new system, saying many counties in southern Arkansas have yet to elect full-time district judges.
The reason for the change, Ramsey continued, is to have better educated judges.
"Full-time judges would be trained better because they spend all their time being judges instead of being judges part of the time and lawyers part of the time," Ramsey said. "I also think there will be less conflicts of interest."
With the position becoming full-time, Ramsey said he understands why some might be concerned about the district judge being less local.
"There's something about having a local judge you can see at your Walmart and your Harps store every day, but I think the district judge can be a member of the community he serves no matter where he lives," Ramsey said.
Flanagin agreed that the change is a good thing for Arkansas.
"There have been pilot programs where we watched and learned and saw whether it works or doesn't work. I think the overwhelming consensus is this is a more efficient court system," Flanagin said.
The full-time position, Ramsey added, will not be based in one location. He said the new district judge will have a desk at each district court in Carroll and Madison counties.
"This is a traveling judge position," Ramsey said.
Ramsey acknowledged that he doesn't live in Carroll County but said that shouldn't prevent him from being part of the community.
"If elected, I would imagine 80 percent of my time would be spent in Carroll County because most of the courts are up here," Ramsey said.
In fact, Ramsey said he feels he's already becoming part of the community. Over the past year, he said he's visited Carroll County residents door-to-door. He also recalled attending various events in the county, such as pancake breakfasts, rodeos, fairs, volunteer fire department suppers and Chamber of Commerce meetings.
"The most enjoyable part of my campaign so far has been going door-to-door. I've been to 3,000 voters' homes so far," Ramsey said.
Flanagin, who has worked in Carroll County for more than 14 years, cited his experience serving the people of Carroll and Madison counties. He served as part and full-time deputy prosecuting attorney in Carroll County from 2003 to 2006 and has been president of the Carroll/Madison County Bar Association for the last six years.
"I think the main thing is my experience has been right here in Carroll and Madison counties the whole time. I know the people and I think I'm in a very good position to keep serving them," Flanagin said.
If elected, both candidates said they would like to implement a community service program for those who can't pay debts. Ramsey said he has already seen how such a program works in Madison County.
"I've done alternative sentencing for people who can't pay their traffic fines by letting them do community service," Ramsey said. "I have a track record with this."
Flanagin concurred, saying he wants the system to be as efficient as possible.
"I want those who can't pay fines to have the opportunity to work off what they owe, including maintaining and cleaning up the streets and highways," Flanagin said.
The election is scheduled for Tuesday, March 1. Early voting begins Tuesday.