Fort Smith attorney and judicial candidate Michael Pierce filed a lawsuit in Sebastian County Circuit Court challenging the residency qualification of Judge Claire Borengasser. Pierce is running for Fort Smith District Court, Division III, the seat now held by Borengasser.
The suit, filed Tuesday (Sept. 17) against Borengasser, the Sebastian County Election Commission, and Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, alleges that Borengasser’s primary residence is a $500,000 home at 4695 W. Persimmon St., in Fayetteville.
“Claire Borengasser has resided in Washington County, Arkansas on a consistent basis while renting a piece of property at 4020 Seminole Circle, Fort Smith Arkansas 72903 merely for perception and in an attempt to claim to be qualified to be Fort Smith District Judge and to pursue future election for Sebastian County District Judge,” the filing noted.
Talk Business & Politics was not able to contact Borengasser after hours on Tuesday.
Pierce’s filing also claims that from August 2019 and “preceding back to 2018,” witnesses will come forward to testify that no lights were on at the property, no trash was taken to the curb, no cars were parked at the property and “no one was residing at the rental property claimed to be the Fort Smith residence of Claire Borengasser.”
Pierce, an attorney with the Fort Smith-based law firm Gean, Gean & Gean, has asked for an expedited hearing. He noted in a press release that a quick decision is fair to other candidates who might be interested. Judicial elections are set for March 3, 2020.
“This action was filed expeditiously to make the election fair if she is disqualified and another candidate decides to enter the race,” the Pierce campaign said in a press release. “He has not waited to file this action on a date that would make it impossible for other candidates to file for election.”
Following are other announcements for regional judicial posts.
• Fort Smith District Court Judge Sam Terry announced July 17 he will challenge Ladd in the Sebastian County Circuit Court, Division VII race.
• Fort Smith attorney Joshua Bugeja and Sebastian County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jason Hunter announced July 15 they will enter the Fort Smith District Court, Division II race. They will face Deputy Public Defender Wendy Sharum who announced May 13 for the post.
• 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 set for March 3, 2020.
• 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 II, 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.