Means’ hearing to begin today


The Sentinel-Record   7-25-1977
Associated Press

Little Rock  – The committee on Legislative Affairs sits down this week for its first real hearing on whether Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern should be removed from office. Means’ lawyer still says the committee has no authority to do what it is doing.

The attorney general’s office has given the committee a legal interpretation which disagrees with Boswell’s.

That office is also handling the investigative work for the committee and has issued six subpoenas for documents and 27 for witnesses.

Means has not been subpoenaed, and his lawyer , Ted Boswell of Bryant, does not intend to submit the judge to the committee.

“I just wish they would come to their senses and realize they have no legal or constitutional authority,” Boswell said.

Nevertheless, the 27-member committee, which has met twice before, has shown no inclination to drop its pursuit of Means, who is judge of the 7th Juditial Circuit – Hot Spring, Grant, and Saline counties.

The investigation was undertaken by the committee in line with a resolution sponsored by Rep. William Clark of Sheridan and others which asked whether there was a good cause to remove Means from the office he has held for a couple of decades.

The controversy over Means got hot last November when the judge dismissed a drug charge against a defendant who pleaded innocent and gave only fines and probation to four co-defendants who pleaded guilty.

Nothing in Clark’s resolution limited the probe to the drug case or to any particular period of time or to any set procedures.

“There have been no set procedures or legal restraints so far, and I don’t expect them to set up any now,” Boswell said.

News reports last week revealed, however, some of the things the committee will be exploring in the two-day meeting which starts Monday.

Boswell contends the committee is not the proper forum for handling any of them.

The things the investigation has touched on so far include these, with Boswell’s suggestion of the proper method of dealing with such a violation, if one existed.

The judge’s failure to list his position as a director of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association on his Code of Ethics form for 1975. Means said it was an oversight. At least one member of the committee had a similar had a similar omission. He called it an oversight, too. Boswell said that rather than it being the committee’s business, prosecutors are authorized to enforce the ethics law.

The question of whether it was the practice of law, in violation of the Constitutional prohibition, for Means to examine abstracts and perform similar tasks for the S&L and perhaps others. Boswell said the constitutional provision has been interpreted to mean that it prohibits a judge from representing anybody in court. “Half the judges in the state” perform little legal tasks – like drawing wills, rendering title opinions, and handling income tax returns – without it being a violation of the Constitution, Boswell said. Any constitutional violation falls under the jurisdiction of the attorney general, not the committee, Boswell said.

Suggestions that the judge went too lightly on the drug case defendants. If the judge committed any crime in this proceeding, the prosecutor is the proper official to charge him with the crime, Boswell said. If the judge engaged in impeachable conduct, the impeachment process – indictment by the House, trial by the Senate – is the correct forum and the committee is not, Boswell said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in 1977. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply