Terry appointed to Fort Smith District Court, Magness to run for Circuit Court post

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,713 views 

The latest judicial news in the Fort Smith area has Fort Smith Public School Board member Greg Magness running for a Sebastian County Circuit Judge post, and banker and attorney Sam Terry appointed as a Fort Smith District Court judge.

Terry, 39, was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to fill out the remaining 18 months of retired Judge Ben Beland’s post. He was sworn in Monday (July 1) morning. The court’s primary function is a misdemeanor court for the city and the state, with cases handled including DWI, domestic battery, public intoxication, and speeding tickets.

Prior to his appointment, Terry was an attorney and trust officer at First National Bank of Fort Smith trust department. Before that he worked as an attorney, full time deputy prosecuting attorney in Sebastian County, and as a law clerk to United States District Judge P.K. Holmes III. He served on the Sebastian County Board of Election Commissioners since January 2017, but had to resign to accept the judicial appointment. The Sebastian County Republican Party will select Terry’s replacement on the election commission.

“It is humbling to receive this appointment, and I appreciate Governor Hutchinson’s confidence in me,” Terry said in a statement. “I look forward to getting to work for the citizens of Sebastian County in my new role as a District Court Judge. I will always treat parties with dignity and respect, and will strive to ensure equity in the decisions I make as a judge.”

Terry earned his law degree and bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of Arkansas.

The law does not allow Terry to run for re-election to his newly appointed post. However, he has not ruled out running for another judgeship in the March 3, 2020, election.

Fort Smith District Court Judge Sam Terry

“I’ll let you know … and soon,” Terry told Talk Business & Politics when asked about his future political plans.

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 has for 25 years worked as an attorney with Fort Smith-based Hardin, Jesson, & Terry, PLC, with a focus on business, commercial and banking law. He also served as a board member for the Western Arkansas Legal Services.

“My priority will be to continue the standard of integrity set by Judge Cox,” Magness said in his statement. “Every party in a lawsuit deserves to be treated equally before the law, whether that party is an individual or business entity. One of a judge’s primary roles is to apply the law passed by the legislative and executive branches to everyone on an equal basis.”

Magness is a graduate of Southside High School, and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Arkansas. He received his law degree from theUniversity of Texas, where he worked as associate editor for the Texas Law Review. Magness’ campaign committee is comprised of Philip Merry, Jr. (chairperson), Leo Anhalt, Deborah Yeager Clark, Steve Clark, Kirk Dougherty, Ray Fulmer, Kate Boreham Maurras, Mark Moll, Sam T. Sicard, Kevin Thompson, and Pam Roberts Weber.

Following are other announcements for regional judicial posts.
• 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.