Talk Business & Politics asked candidates in the five contested judicial races in Sebastian County for a 350-word essay on why they are the best person in their respective race.
Candidate essays from all five races will be posted this week. Following are the essays from Dianna Ladd and Judge Sam Terry, who are candidates in the Sebastian County Circuit Court, Division VII race. The essays are posted in alphabetical order.
• Dianna Ladd
Division 7 is a Circuit Court Judgeship. 50% of the caseload involves families, i.e., adoption, guardianship, a loved one’s estate and juvenile cases. The other 50% involves civil disputes, i.e., breach of contract, personal injury, and malpractice.
I am absolutely the most qualified candidate running for Division 7. I am 51 years old; married to Jeff for 20 years; and we have two children. I am the only candidate with extensive experience in District Court. For 17 years, I have served as a Prosecuting Attorney and I also served as a Special Judge on a regular basis over a 12 year span. I’ve handled thousands of District Court cases.
District Court experience is good, but since this is a Circuit Court position, it is important that people understand that the experiences are not at all the same and that the candidates are not equally qualified. In Circuit Court we have jury trials; you can lose your children; and people can go to prison. I tried my first, federal, week-long jury trial 19 years ago and have tried hundreds of cases since then. I have handled every kind of case that will come before me as your next Division 7 Judge.
Experience is a MUST. But, what also makes me the best candidate is my temperament. Perhaps the biggest compliment to my temperament is the long lasting nature of my relationships. Both my legal assistant and my Law Partner have been with me for 19 years. This is because I am committed to treating people with fairness and respect.
I am asking for your vote, not just because I am the most qualified candidate, but because I am concerned about Sebastian County. This election will result in a large turnover in our Courthouse. We must elect Judges with integrity. I will uphold the Constitution and will equally apply the law without regard to politics or favoritism. I have not allowed contributions to be accepted from any special interest groups nor from anyone who is under criminal investigation. My actions are consistent with my words. That is integrity.
• Judge Sam Terry
I am a lifelong resident of Sebastian County with a passion for public service. In 2019, I was appointed as a District Judge for the Fort Smith District, and I am currently serving in that capacity. As a District Judge, I preside over misdemeanor cases, felony preliminary hearings, probable cause hearings, and civil cases involving amounts up to $25,000 in controversy.
Judicial experience matters. I am the only candidate in my race with judicial experience, not only as a full-time judge, but also as a former Special Associate Justice to the Arkansas Supreme Court. A judge must possess an extensive knowledge of the law, sound judgment, a sense of fairness, a calm temperament, appropriate empathy, and the ability to make decisions after carefully listening to all sides of an issue. I believe that I exhibit all of these traits in the courtroom.
In addition to judicial experience, I am fortunate to have had a very diverse legal career. I have extensive civil litigation experience, and have tried numerous civil and criminal jury trials, including as a former full-time deputy prosecuting attorney in Sebastian County. I have also served as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes. Judge Holmes is a very positive influence on my legal and judicial career, and he is the kind of judge I strive to be: extremely intelligent, a good listener, and thoughtful. His evenhanded temperament, irrespective of what unfolds in court, is something that any judge or lawyer should emulate.
Finally, I am the only local candidate to be listed on the Arkansas Judicial Campaign and Education Committee’s website, www.arkansasjudges.org. I was proud to take the pledge that I will abide by the letter and spirit of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct and will disavow false communications in my favor authorized by third party groups or super PACs. Integrity is extremely important to me, and I am fully committed to running a clean, positive campaign. I am the most experienced candidate for Circuit Judge, and I ask you for your vote on March 3.