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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Third District judge seeks new bench

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Circuit Judge Phil Smith of Pocahontas has announced he is a candidate for election to a full term as circuit judge in the Third Judicial District. The district is comprised of Sharp, Jackson, Lawrence and Randolph counties.Smith has served as a circuit judge since March 2001, when he was appointed to the position by Gov. Mike Huckabee. The judgeship was a new one, created by the state legislature to ease crowded court dockets in the district. State law does not allow an appointee to run for the position to which he was appointed, so Smith is running for the seat now held by Judge Tom Hilburn, who has said he will not seek re-election.Before becoming circuit judge, Smith served for nearly nine years as municipal judge in Pocahontas and Randolph County. He practiced law for 22 years, having earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1979. He is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army from 1972 to 1975.Smith said he is a native of the entire Third District. He started school at Pocahontas, where his father was the first manager of the old Sterling 5- and 10-cent store. Later his father became a Baptist minister and the family moved to Imboden in Lawrence County.While in college he lived in Newport, where his father was pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. He also has many relatives in Sharp County, where his father was raised and where his parents, J.C. and Berneda Smith, now reside. His wife, the former Linda Collins, grew up at Williford.Smith said he believes judges should take the time to allow everyone to have their day in court. "Every case deserves a full hearing, and every person deserves to be treated with respect," he said. "Because there is a winner and loser in every contested case, someone always goes home disappointed. But they should never go home feeling that they didn't get to tell their side of the case."Since assuming the bench, Smith's duties have been mainly in juvenile court, domestic relations and civil cases. Amendment 80 to the Arkansas Constitution, which was passed by the voters in the 2000 election, made sweeping changes in the court system and apparently will require all circuit judges to handle all types of cases. Those cases will be divided into five divisions: criminal, civil, probate, domestic relations and juvenile."I have been able to handle some of each type of case during my time on the bench," Smith said. "The state Supreme Court has not yet given us the specific guidelines for dividing cases among the judges, but I have no doubt I will be comfortable trying any case that comes before the court."Smith earned his undergraduate degree from Arkansas State University. He worked for the Jonesboro Sun while in college. After his tour of duty in the Army he worked as an editor for the Arkansas Democrat while attending law school. He and his wife own and operate the Days Inn and Suites in Pocahontas.

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