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2 judges compete for Arkansas Supreme Court seat

Jeannie Nuss

Two appeals court judges are vying for a slot on the Arkansas Supreme Court in the lone statewide election of 2012.

Judge Raymond Abramson of Holly Grove is competing against Judge Jo Hart of Mountain View for Associate Justice Jim Gunter's seat on the seven-member court. Gunter, who was elected to the state Supreme Court in 2004 for an 8-year term, announced last year that he wouldn't seek re-election.

The election is May 22, and early voting starts Monday.

Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Abramson to the Arkansas Court of Appeals in 2010, and Hart was elected to the same court in 1998.

Abramson formally announced his bid for the spot on the state Supreme Court last May. For months, it looked like he would be running unopposed, but Hart said in December that she planned to join the race.

"The decision of who's going to be on the Supreme Court rests with the people," Hart said. "And to have a voice in who's going to be on the Supreme Court, we need to have an election."

Abramson, whose campaign touts his small-town values, has raised and spent more money than Hart, according to campaign finance reports. He spent $7,000 on consulting fees alone in March. Hart spent $4,700 the whole month.

Abramson has practiced law in the Delta for more than three decades, and has worked as a city attorney, public defender and municipal court judge.

"I think I bring a little fresher perspective to the bench because I've been a trial lawyer and a country lawyer and representing families and ordinary people," he said.

Hart, meanwhile, has served on the Arkansas Court of Appeals for more than a decade. She has also served in the military, clerked for Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Frank Holt and practiced law in Batesville.

Another Supreme Court associate justice, Robert L. Brown, announced last year that he plans to retire from the high court at the end of 2012. The governor will appoint someone to finish out his term.

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The Associated Press