Fort Smith attorney Joshua Bugeja and Sebastian County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jason Hunter announced Monday (July 15) they will enter the Fort Smith District Court, Division II race. Deputy Public Defender Wendy Sharum also has announced her candidacy for the judicial post.
Sam Terry was recently appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the Division II bench to fill out the term of retired Judge Ben Beland. Terry is ineligible to seek election to the post. The judicial election for district and circuit courts is March 3, 2020.
Bugeja has worked in private practice since 2010, both as the owner/operator of the Bugeja Law Firm, and previously with the Meadors Law Firm. He also worked as a part-time public defender for Sebastian and Crawford counties from 2013 until 2016. He is admitted to practice in the Western and Eastern Districts of Arkansas, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in writing with a minor in philosophy from the University of Central Arkansas and graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law. Bugeja grew up in Fort Smith and and graduated from Southside High School in 2002. He resides in Fort Smith with his wife Meredith and their two year old daughter.
“Unlike the stereotypical image most people have of lawyers, I don’t come from money, make a lot of it, or have pre-existing political connections which could impair my ability to be independent or apply the values I have been raised with to the cases in front of me,” Bugeja said in his statement. “The viewpoint I offer is new and unlike the status quo, combined with my being fiscally conservative and dedicated to seeking fairness in an unfair world. While I may be the underdog in this race, I hope my unique viewpoint is something that will resonate with voters and I would be humbled by their support.”
Hunter, who has worked 17 years as deputy prosecuting attorney for Sebastian County, also is a native of Fort Smith and graduated from Northside High School. He earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas’s School of Law and was admitted as an attorney in 2001. He is a member and the former president of the Sebastian County Bar Association, and a prior member and chairman of the Sebastian County Law Library Board. Hunter and his wife, Izetta, live in Fort Smith and have four daughters.
Hunter has since 2006 worked with the 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force as its fiscal officer, which he has done since 2006.
“I have handled tough cases and worked to fight for victims and the community to ensure fairness and justice was done in each case that I handled. I feel this is a natural extension of the work I have been doing. I look forward to continue serving the citizens of Fort Smith as a District Court Judge, and pledge that everyone will be treated fairly, equitably and honorably within my court,” Hunter noted.
Following are other announcements for regional judicial posts.
• Former Republican Arkansas Senator and Representative Gunner DeLay is running for the Sebastian County Circuit Court Division V now held by retiring Judge J. Michael Fitzhugh. No other candidate has announced for division V race.
• Fort Smith attorney Greg Magness is running for the Division VI, Sebastian County Circuit Court bench now held by Judge James Cox, who is retiring. Magness will face Fort Smith attorney Phil Milligan and Sebastian County Deputy Public Defender Rita Howard Watkins for the judicial job in the March 2020 election. Magness will not seek re-election to his Fort Smith School Board post.
• Deputy Public Defender Wendy Sharum announced May 13 her candidacy for Fort Smith District Court, Division Two, for the election also set for March 2020.
• Dianna Hewitt Ladd and Judge Jim O’Hern announced May 8 their bids for election and re-election, respectively, for judicial posts. Ladd is running for the newly created Sebastian County Judge post, and O’Hern seeks re-election to position one of the Fort Smith District Court.
• Administrative Law Judge Amy Grimes on April 30 announced her candidacy for the position O’Hern holds.