Who’ll be your judge? It’s up to you!

Judges are elected in Arkansas, so the choice of who will sit on the bench in your district is up to you. Judicial elections are non-partisan and candidates cannot publicly say if they are Democrat or Republican. So how will you make your choice?

This blog series is intended to introduce you to each candidate as you decide which ones deserve your vote! The decisions we make as voters have a lasting impact on our lives—these judges make decisions about criminal issues, family issues, & your disputes with your neighbor. Don’t take that responsibility lightly.

Getting to Know Your Candidates

Lion Legal Services asked all of the candidates the same questions and limited the answers to 100 words. We formatted the Q&A here for readability, but we did not make any changes in content. The responses are verbatim from the candidates themselves.

Over the next several weeks, we will share profiles of each judicial candidate in Central Arkansas.

Lion Legal Services is not endorsing or analyzing or comparing these candidates. We are simply giving you an opportunity to get to know them and their judicial philosophies, in their own words.

Suzanne Lumpkin for Judge: AR District 6, Div. 8

Suzanne Lumpkin for Arkansas Circuit JudgePlease provide a short statement of your biographical information. 
I was raised in an Air Force family and have been fortunate to have lived in many places and experienced many cultures. I have a BA from UALR and a MS from UA. Upon graduation with a JD from UA Bowen School of Law, I have practiced family law for 16 years with a focus on juvenile law. I work in the areas of child abuse, domestic violence and substance abuse on a professional, as well as community volunteer level. I provide many hours of pro bono work to those who cannot afford an attorney in these areas and others.

What makes you uniquely qualified for this position? 
I have worked in the area of dependency/neglect and juvenile law the entirety of my career as a family law attorney, which makes me specifically qualified to serve as a juvenile judge. I have written numerous dependency/neglect appellate briefs which give me the added experience and in-depth knowledge necessary to understand the technical aspects of the law at both the appellate and trial level. As a wife, mother and grandmother, my experience outside of the courtroom gives me a critically important perspective to understand the issues that families face as they navigate matters specific to juvenile court.

What is your general judicial philosophy? What policy change would you advocate for in our judicial system? 
As a judge, I would be impartial and fair in following the law. I would be sensitive to the people I serve, listen courteously, consider issues seriously, apply liberal common sense, and strive to render prompt rulings with clear explanations. Efficient administrative management of the court is important, both for the litigants and lawyers, but also for the court staff.

With policy set by the Supreme Court and the legislature, I would work within the bounds set. I would, however, work as an advocate for less detention time for juveniles and more time in which families could be reunited in d/n cases.

Arkansas has the lowest number of attorneys per capita of any state in the nation & a very low median income, meaning traditional legal services are unaffordable for many Arkansans. What individual, practical steps will you take in your courtroom to increase meaningful access to the justice system if you are elected? 
Juvenile courts appoint attorneys to indigent parents in dependency/neglect cases who qualify through their submission of an affidavit of indigency at the beginning of each case and also at the appeal phase; the same is true in juvenile cases where an assessment is made whether a parent can afford an attorney for the juvenile. A finding of partial indigency might also be appropriate whereby an attorney is court-appointed with a fee assessed at a reduced rate that is determined by the court.

Tjuana Byrd for Judge: AR District 6, Div. 8

Tjuana Byrd for Arkansas Circuit JudgePlease provide a short statement of your biographical information. 
I am a graduate of Lonoke High School, U of A Fayetteville, and Bowen School of Law. I have 3 sisters, 3 nieces, 2 nephews, and 14 great-nieces and nephews. I have practiced law for 23 years. I am actively involved in numerous community organizations and serve on two boards. I am a member of St. Mark Baptist Church where I am a children’s church large group team member and co-director of the Watson Primary Ensemble children’s choir. I enjoy travel and fitness.

What makes you uniquely qualified for this position? 
I am the candidate with experience in all matters coming before the juvenile court. I have nearly 15 years of experience in dependency neglect cases as an Attorney Ad Litem, nearly 14 years handling truancy cases, which are FINS (Families in Need of Services) cases. I was a Public Defender in juvenile court, and I handle delinquency cases in my practice. I have served as special judge dozens of times hearing and making rulings in each of these types of cases.

What is your general judicial philosophy? What policy change would you advocate for in our judicial system? 
Generally, moderate. I am advocating for continued reform of the juvenile justice system in Pulaski County wherein there is consistent use of the evidence based assessment (SAVRY) to determine a juvenile’s violence risk, and then to develop and work with community partners to provide appropriate diversion and intervention for low risk juveniles, so the probation staff can focus time and effort supervising and providing services to the high risk juveniles.

Arkansas has the lowest number of attorneys per capita of any state in the nation & a very low median income, meaning traditional legal services are unaffordable for many Arkansans. What individual, practical steps will you take in your courtroom to increase meaningful access to the justice system if you are elected? 
When juveniles’ families in delinquency and FINS cases or when parents in dependency neglect proceedings are determined to be indigent, counsel will be appointed to represent them. In most cases, this happens. In cases when parties are not eligible for appointed counsel, I can assess minimal, but reasonable attorney fees in delinquency cases to be paid to the Public Defender for representation.