ENDORSED BY THE FORT SMITH FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, LODGE 39
A Proven Conservative Philosophy
“I will continue to advance a pragmatic approach to the issues that are faced daily by the Fort Smith District Court system and promise to uphold the high standards of the bench that have been entrusted to me by the citizens of Fort Smith.”
Proven Judicial Experience
• Has presided over tens of thousands of Fort Smith District Court cases.
• Instrumental in establishing an ongoing oversight of the District Court Alternative Sentencing Program and DWI Court.
• Five time Pro Bono Attorney of the Year for donating time and legal expertise to low income and elderly residents.
• Twice named Volunteer Attorney of the Year for the Elderly by the Arkansas Bar Association.
• 35 years of private legal practice.
Integrity, Compassion, Fairness & Community Involvement
• Board President, Arc for the River Valley
• Board of Directors, Sebastian County Law Library
• Board of Directors, Center for Arkansas Legal Services
• Former University of Arkansas Fort Smith Adjunct Professor
• Active Member, Fort Smith Rotary Club
Programs that have been started in the Fort Smith District Court since I took the bench in January of 2017.
On September 17, 2018 the Fort Smith District Court launched its Community Diversion Program which is available for non violent misdemeanor offenders. This is a voluntary program in which those charged have an opportunity to regain their self respect, turn their lives around, get out of the courthouse/jail revolving door,reunite their families and become productive citizens. Those offenders with substance dependency or mental health issues receive treatment at the Harbor House. Otherwise the offenders have the option of going to the Fort Smith Adult Education Center and either earn a GED, take part in the Career Pathways program, enroll in an apprenticeship program or participate in the UAFS Future Fit program. If the participants are successful, their jail time and community service are wiped out and depending upon their level of success and the number of charges they had pending against them when they entered the program, sometimes part of their fines and costs are waived. If a person washes out of the program, because a plea of guilty is entered on the front end, the person is sentenced according to the original guilty plea. Over 200 people have graduated from the program and the success rate varies between 47% and 51%. This model program has been so successful that numerous District Courts across the state have adopted its model.
At the suggestion of Kasey Wilson of the Harbor House, on April 1, 2019 I started a pilot voluntary DWI Court for DWI 2 & 3 offenders. Public safety is a top priority and this Specialty Court was started to address the habitual DWI offenders and as in the Community Diversion Program, to give offenders an opportunity to change their destructive behavior and become safe drivers on the roads and highways of our city and our state. If the Specialty Court Program is successfully completed, the offender’s jail time is waived. Again, if a person washes out of the program, because he/she plead guilty before he/she started, the person serves the jail time according to the original guilty plea. The District Court is running at an 85% success rate for this specialty court.
Both of these programs are helping to decrease the Sebastian County jail population and jail costs that would otherwise have to be paid. The goal of the judges of Fort Smith District Court is and has been to improve public safety and to give those who truly want to rehabilitate themselves the opportunity to do so with every possible resource that is available through the court and elsewhere.
I have also continued to serve on the Sebastian County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee since the spring of 2017. That Committee continues to work on solutions to fairly administer justice in Sebastian County and to find innovative ways to reduce the jail population.
Learn how to get involved.
Paid for and managed by the Committee to Re-Elect Jim O’Hern District Judge,
John R. Swicegood, M.D., Chair