Then & Now: Judge’s career rooted in preparation, fairness

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,647 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.


A jurist’s ultimate goal is to be universally viewed as fair and impartial. They should make decisions based on objective criteria, not bias, prejudice or favoring one party over another.

In a recent interview, Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green underscored the point with a sense of humor.

“We have a joke among judges,” she said. “On bad days, we only make half the people mad. On good days, we make everyone mad.”

For nearly 13 years, Green has worked hard to treat both sides of a case fairly and respectfully, presiding over Division One of the Benton County Circuit Court, hearing civil cases and half of the judicial district’s felony cases. She was first elected in 2008 and won re-election in 2014 and 2020.

“I truly enjoy public service,” she said. “In this position, I get to protect the rights of the accused and victims of crime and work to keep our communities safe. It’s a very rewarding position.”

A native Arkansan from Searcy (White County), Green moved to Fayetteville in 1990 and never left the region. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and business from Hendrix College in 1990, then attended the University of Arkansas School of Law. She earned her juris doctor in 1993.

Green has been a courtroom fixture in Benton County since then, following a similar career path as her father. Leroy Froman practiced law in Searcy for years and then was a municipal judge in White County for 20 years until his retirement in 2000. Sadly, he died five months before Benton County voters elected Green to the bench.

Before becoming a circuit judge, she worked as a civil attorney and a prosecuting attorney for Benton County for 14 years. She prosecuted cases in juvenile, district and circuit courts and, at one point, was responsible for prosecuting all state crimes committed in Benton County.

In 2005, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal recognized Green as a Forty Under 40 honoree. That same year, she served as a special justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. That service, Green said, is one of her most outstanding achievements. The other was her successful prosecution in 2005 of the murder and kidnapping case involving Albert Keith Smith, which was the most protracted and most expensive case in the county’s history.

Green said the prosecuting attorney’s office was running “on all cylinders” in the mid-2000s, and she enjoyed the trial work. Still, she considered it a natural progression to run for the circuit judge’s position.

The transition from advocating for one side to being a neutral jurist took some getting used to.

“When I was a trial attorney as a prosecutor, I prided myself on knowing the ins and outs of a case and not being surprised by any facts at trial,” she explained. “I took great pride in that. As a circuit judge, I am the one in the room that knows the least about the case. Me and the jurors. Letting the facts unfold as attorneys and witnesses present them in a court of law was a mental adjustment. But it’s the proper process, of course.”

Green said Northwest Arkansas is blessed with having “the cream of the crop” of prosecutors, defense attorneys and civil litigators.

“That makes my job a lot easier,” she said. She said preparation is critical for any attorney to succeed in the courtroom.

“If you are a trial attorney, know how to get evidence successfully introduced and preserve the record for appeal,” she said.

Green is on the Cancer Challenge board of directors and is a past member of numerous civic organizations. She also was a commissioner (2013-2015) for the statewide nonprofit Arkansas Access to Justice.

As an adjunct professor at John Brown University, she also teaches business law and ethics. Green enjoys spending time traveling with her family. A trip to Washington, D.C., in 2011 produced an opportunity to meet with the late Antonin Scalia in his chambers. Scalia was an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1986 until his death in 2016.

“We got to meet with him in his chambers, and that was a huge highlight,” she said. “To be in the presence of that greatness is something I will never forget.”