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March 25th, 2013

The Worst Judge in America

A unanimous decision last week by the U.S. Supreme Court adds credence to the argument that Circuit Court Judge Kirk Johnson in Miller County, Arkansas, may well be the very worst judge in America.

At the very least, Judge Johnson is surely among the most plaintiff-friendly judges, stacking rules, procedures and even purposeful inaction (e.g., refusing to rule on defense motions) against class-action defendants. All these tactics are plainly designed to make the burden of discovery crushingly expensive for defendants and thus force them into settlements that hugely enrich three regional law firms but do precious little for class members.

As reported by Arkansas Business, “[d]efense attorneys involved in class-action cases in Miller County Circuit Court have called it a ‘judicial hellhole’” primarily because “they don’t receive timely hearings” from Judge Kirk Johnson “on issues of merit, jurisdiction and class status.”

Three law firms — Keil & Goodson of Texarkana; Nix Patterson & Roach of Daingerfield, Texas, which has an office in Texarkana, Texas; and Crowley Norman of Houston — have been the big winners in the game that Judge Johnson has run against defendants for seven years. During that time, the three personal injury firms have collectively pocketed more than $420 million in attorneys’ fees from settlements in 23 lawsuits.

But defendant companies hope the Supreme Court’s decision in Standard Fire Co. v. Knowles will make it easier to remove cases from Judge Johnson’s rigged courtroom to federal court, where “you would not see these abuses taking place,” according to one Little Rocky attorney.

In more colorful language, ATRA director of communications Darren McKinney posted a comment about Judge Johnson on the Arkansas Business website, reading as follows:

“Judge Johnson is a disgrace to the judiciary, and a unanimous Supreme Court has said as much with its decision in Standard Fire v. Knowles. Of course, if Miller County voters and taxpayers are comfortable with their court’s reputation as an incestuous backwoods affront to justice, they should by all means keep Judge Johnson on the bench.”

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