Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Wynne dies at 70

By: - June 22, 2023 11:28 am
Arkansas Supreme Court

Arkansas Supreme Court (Courtesy Photo)

This story was updated at 11:56 a.m. on Thursday, June 22, 2023.

Robin Wynne, the associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court whose moderate stances sometimes balanced the court’s recent conservative shift, died Wednesday night. He was 70.

Wynne’s death was confirmed in an email to members of the judiciary from Marty Sullivan, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The cause of death has not been made public.

Robin Wynne

Wynne, from Fordyce, won reelection to a second 8-year term on the state’s highest court in a November runoff election. He was first elected in 2014 after serving on the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be responsible for appointing a justice to fill Wynne’s seat until an election can be held.

The next statewide judicial election is in the spring of 2024, and it will already include a race for chief justice.

Sanders praised Wynne’s public service in a statement.

“Bryan and I are saddened to learn that Justice Robin Wynne has passed away,” Sanders said. “His service to our state was immeasurable, from his days as a hard-charging Dallas County prosecutor to his decade at the highest reaches of the Arkansas legal system in the Supreme Court. Not long ago, Justice Wynne welcomed me into his office to discuss the state we both loved so much. I will treasure the note he sent me afterward, with its deft use of scripture reflecting the years Justice Wynne spent in divinity school earlier in his life. Justice Wynne could have been anything – a pastor, a politician, a businessman – and chose instead to devote his life to Arkansans and the law. For that, we are all eternally grateful. Our deepest condolences are with his family and all those who knew him.”

Attorney General Tim Griffin expressed a similar sentiment on social media.

“I am saddened at the passing of Associate Justice Robin Wynne. A long-time judge, former @ArkansasHouse Member & deputy prosecutor, his legacy of public service will be long remembered,” Griffin tweeted. “I pray for his family, friends and colleagues on the State Supreme Court.

Wynne worked as a prosecutor and district judge before his election the state’s appellate courts. He was also a Democratic state representative who represented portions of Dallas, Lincoln and Cleveland counties from 1985-1988.

Wynne last year emphasized the importance of a nonpartisan judiciary in a race in which his opponent broke several norms, claiming an endorsement from the Republican Party of Arkansas.

Wynne was viewed as one of the more moderate members of the court. He was one of two justices last week who would’ve ruled in favor of those challenging the implementation date of the LEARNS Act, Sanders’ signature education law.

Wynne earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his law degree from the University of Arkansas. He also attended the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

This story will be updated.


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Hunter Field
Hunter Field

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.