Photographs by Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Monday, May 14, 2018
IN A YEAR when those running for political office in these parts are accomplished, skilled and admirable, it is still easy to be impressed when a candidate like Kenneth Hixson sits down across the table.
From state house races to constitutional offices, these candidates are first-rate. (There have been years when “impressed” isn’t the first word that came to mind.) But none more impressive than Judge Hixson.
Should we start at the beginning? Kenneth Hixson was raised in Paris, the one in Arkansas, and his father was a coal miner. In the eighth grade, young Kenneth began working as a coal miner too, in the summers. He came out of the mines to major in mathematics at UCA, then went to law school at UA-Fayetteville.
After working as an attorney in the business world, he was elected to serve as a judge on the Court of Appeals in 2012, and he’s very familiar with trial work. He’s decided thousands of cases and written hundreds of opinions. Oh, yes, on the side he’s a professor at the U of A’s law school.
To call him qualified is about as understated as his persona. When many of us think of “judge,” we get an image of an old man in robes, glowering down at a defendant, with little sense of humor or humanity. Kenneth Hixson is . . . the opposite of that.
He does, however, seem frustrated with how political the courts have become. Which gives him a lot in common with the rest of us. He vows to call ‘em like he sees ‘em, without an agenda. As far as a judicial philosophy, it’s about as good as it gets: “Every Arkansan deserves a competent attorney and a fair judge. Then let the chips fall where they may.”
He says he understands that the courts are a business for judges and attorneys and clerks. But when somebody comes before the court, it can be life-changing. And cases must be handled correctly. Every. Single. Time.
It’s not often that a sitting Supreme Court justice, an incumbent, gets this much opposition. But this isn t just any race. And Judge Hixson seems to understand why this race is so different: “It’s clear to me that the public has lost some confidence in the [state] Supreme Court. The biggest complaint that I hear from folks around the state is that our Supreme Court has got too political.”
Yes, we seem to have heard those complaints, too.
We doubt it will ever be possible to remove politics from the courthouse altogether, not while humans, not robots, are judges and lawyers. But We the People should strive to put people in charge of our courts with the most integrity—and the best kind of real-world experience.
Our betters should be better.
Which is why it’s a pleasure today to endorse Kenneth Hixson for this position. All rise!
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