Lawsuit dropped against Judge Borengasser, candidates still debate residency

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,563 views 

Fort Smith attorney Michael Pierce has withdrawn his residency-based lawsuit against Sebastian County District Court Judge Claire Borengasser, but still alleges she lives in Fayetteville. Borengasser said Pierce should also withdraw his “false statements.”

Pierce, who is running against incumbent Judge Borengasser for the Fort Smith District Court, Division III, filed the lawsuit Sept. 17 alleging 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,” Pierce noted in the Sept. 17 filing.

Pierce was forced to “nonsuit” – withdraw – the lawsuit on Nov. 1 when his witnesses failed to “cooperate and testify about what they had informed me.” But he told Talk Business & Politics he still believes Borengasser’s permanent residence is in Fayetteville.

“It is still absolute fact that Ms. Borengasser only rents a duplex in Fort Smith and owns an over $500,000 home in Fayetteville, AR unless there have been any recent changes that I am not aware of with her. I have the right to refile the complaint but at this time I am leaving the decision on who to elect up to the people of Fort Smith,” Pierce noted in a statement. “I do feel the allegations in my original complaint were and still are very relevant to who Fort Smith should choose as their future District Judge. I believe that informed voters will see the truth if they look closely at the undisputed facts in this case.”

Borengasser, in a statement sent by a spokeswoman, said Fort Smith “is my home.” She also said Gunner DeLay, the former Republican Arkansas Senator running for the Sebastian County Circuit Court Division V now held by retiring Judge J. Michael Fitzhugh, was supposed to be Pierce’s witness. DeLay now serves as Sebastian County Circuit Court Judge, Division VII, after he was appointed to the newly created post earlier this year by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“Mr. Delay has lived on my street for two or more years. Apparently, he was watching the wrong house. I had moved across the street over a year ago. A simple question to me could have cleared this up. Mr. Delay was appointed by Governor Hutchinson to fill the term left by Judge Beland and was working with me in District Court at the time,” Borengasser said.

Borengasser also said in the statement that Pierce’s “false claim” required her to produce bank statements, credit card statements, utility statements, and witness statements.

“Judge Borengasser said that she does not know if this false claim by Pierce was poor judgement on his part or a political strategy. Hopefully, Mr. Pierce will retract the false statements he has posted. Fort Smith citizens deserve the truth,” noted the statement from Borengasser’s spokeswoman.

The election for Arkansas judicial races is March 3, 2020.