The Practical Lawyer

November 16-22, 2015

‘Republican shift’ in Arkansas could have impact on state laws

By Ethan C. Nobles

Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, conducted a poll finding that the Republicans’ very recent domination of state politics has been fueled by independents.

Specifically, those independents that used to swing elections to Democrats are now voting for Republicans in spite of the fact that they don’t identify themselves as such. Regardless, the fact remains that Arkansas is yet another state in the former “Solid South” that Democrats can no longer rely on and that will have a major impact on the judicial system in the state.

We’ve already seen a good example of how things have changed with the election of state Attorney General Lesley Rutledge. That particular Republican has already come out and stated that people can carry handguns openly in Arkansas whereas Dustin McDaniel – the former attorney general and a Democrat – said that open carry was clearly not authorized in the state.

Admittedly, the law in question is vague in that Act 746 plainly states that one commits the offense of carrying a weapon openly if he or she does so with the intent of committing a crime. Still, one has to guess that Rutledge’s political affiliation might color her opinion of that vague statute a bit, particularly since Arkansas’ lieutenant governor – Republican Tim Griffin – agrees with her interpretation of the law.

While there may be some argument about political leanings influencing how one interprets Act 746, one issue that is clearly centered on conservative philosophy is revealed in Rutledge’s frequent battles with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She campaigned on the notion that the EPA was overreaching and putting plans in place that would result in higher energy costs for Arkansans.

Rutledge has joined in six lawsuits against the EPA since she took office in January, in fact, thus proving that some politicians do keep their promises.

Keep in mind that none of this is meant as a criticism of Rutledge. I’m merely pointing out that Republicans act like, well, Republicans when in office and we can expect to see more conservative philosophy filter into the judicial system than we would if liberal Democrats were carrying the state.

The point of all this is that political transformations in a state have a wider ranging impact than, perhaps, a lot of us realize. People likely understood that putting Republicans in the Legislature and the Governor’s office would likely result in more conservative legislation, but how many people thought about the impact having a Republican as the attorney general would have? What about the impact on the judiciary as some judges are appointed by Republicans? We’ve already seen some changes and we’re probably in for more should the swing toward the Republican Party continue.

Ethan C. Nobles is an attorney in Benton focusing on real estate, evictions, contracts, wills, trusts, incorporations and other areas of law as the mood strikes. You can reach him at or visit him on the Internet at NoblesLawFirm.