Investigation of Means comes to formal close


The Sentinel-Record   10-21-1977

Little Rock (AP) – The investigation of Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern has come to a formal close.

The probe ended when the investigating committee adopted a written version of its conclusions criticizing Means.

The Committee on Legislative Affairs said Means committed “gross indiscretions” in writing legal opinions and in telling a defense lawyer the sentence he would give before a defendant pleaded guilty.

Atty. Gen. Bill Clinton, legal counsel for the committee during the four month investigation, prepared the report and presented it to the committee at Thursday’s meeting.

The judge’s lawyer, Ted Boswell of Bryant, was not at the meeting, nor was the judge.

The report was adopted on a voice vote. No one dissented.

Boswell maintained in earlier proceedings that there was no  such constitutional procedure as the one the committee was following. The written report presented an 1839 precedent Clinton’s staff had found.

The precedent was under a different Constitution than currently governs Arkansas, but the provisions in question were alike.

The report said the actions by Means were sufficient grounds for asking the legislature to ask Gov. David Pryor to remove the judge from office under an address provision of the Constitution.

The address provision is different from an impeachment proceeding according to the precedent cited by Clinton.

The committee decide, however, that it would not recommend that the legislature “address” Pryor for the removal of Means.

The report said instead that continued conduct of the sort criticized by the committee could make the committee change its mind.

Means has said he would not continue that conduct.

He also has announced that he will not seek re-election next year. He is the judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Hot Spring, Saline, and Grant counties.

The legal opinions concerned the validity of titles to land. Means wrote more than 400 of the opinions over a three-year period and was paid about $17,000 for his work. He did the work for a Malvern savings and loan association. The code of judicial ethics forbids judges from engaging in law practice. the committee decided the writing of the legal opinions was the practice of law and Means therefore was in violation of the code.

The matter of revealing the sentence prior to receiving a guilty plea constituted plea discussions in violation of the code of criminal procedure the report said. The code provides for plea discussions between defense lawyers and prosecutors, but not with judges unless both the prosecutor and the defense are present.

Means recently indicated that because of poor health he would need help to handle cases in the district, and might not be able to carry out trial duties at all the remainder of his current term.

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