AR Briefly

Arkansas Supreme Court to shut down its lawyer ethics office

By: - July 14, 2023 5:42 pm

The Arkansas Supreme Court building surrounded by construction. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Citing budget issues, the Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday notified the public that it’s shutting down its nearly two-year-old Office of Ethics Counsel on Aug. 1.

The office provides free advice to attorneys about ethical concerns and interpretation of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct. It also reviews proposed attorney advertising, marketing and solicitation materials, according to the court’s website.

The program is funded by annual law license fees, but in its per curiam order on Friday, the court said: “Budgetary constraints within the Bar of Arkansas account have necessitated decisions regarding court programs.”

Stark Ligon, who’d previously served as the director of the court’s Committee on Professional Conduct, served as the ethics counsel. The court expressed its appreciation to him in its order.

In an email to the Arkansas Times on Friday, Ligon indicated he would be out of a job as of Aug. 1.

“Hopefully, there will be some opportunities for me for limited service in the future,” he said.

Ligon noted that in his 48-year career as a lawyer and court official, “I hope I have upheld the high standards required and expected of me… .”

 The court’s order said the ethics counsel’s archived files are considered confidential under the office’s rules and will be destroyed as provided under those rules or under other court-issued orders. The Office of Ethics Counsel’s website will be deactivated when the office is shuttered.

The court created the office in September 2021, with three justices — Barbara Webb, Rhonda Wood and Shawn Womack — dissenting. Webb wrote in her dissent, with Wood joining, that while she didn’t oppose providing ethical guidance to lawyers, she thought it would be better to circulate a draft proposal to the judiciary and the bar association for their thoughts.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. He retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2020 after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years and returned to professional journalism in 2022 to lead the Arkansas Advocate. He is a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a current member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.