All complaints against Naramore dismissed

By David Showers
This article was published March 4, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

All complaints filed against Division 2 Circuit Court Judge Wade Naramore have been dismissed, Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission Executive Director David J. Sachar announced Friday.

Sachar issued a one-paragraph news release about the dismissal, along with the dismissal letter to Naramore that was dated Friday. In it, Sachar said that multiple complaints filed against Naramore by private citizens were merged into a single case, which was then filed by Sachar as a single complaint on July 30, 2015.

The dismissal letter said a jury's acquittal of Naramore last August in the July 24, 2015, death of his 18-month-old son, Thomas, led the JDDC's investigative panel to dismiss all discipline-related allegations. Naramore testified during the trial that he "lost awareness" of his son in the back seat of a hot car, causing him to leave the boy there for approximately seven hours. He ultimately succumbed to environmental hyperthermia.

"The investigation initiated by these complaints did not reveal sufficient evidence of judicial misconduct, wrongdoing or incapacity within the commission's jurisdiction," the letter said. "As a result of these findings, there is insufficient cause to proceed and these complaints are dismissed."

The letter said the disability-related allegations were dismissed based on an industrial psychologist's opinion that Naramore was mentally fit to return to the bench. Dr. Kim Dielmann examined Naramore on Sept. 30, 2016, and concluded that he had taken appropriate steps to address the trauma resulting from his son's death and that his problem-solving skills were "intact."

"There is no present indication that you are affected by a mental or physical disability that would impair your ability to conduct the obligations of your role as a judge in Arkansas," the letter said. "You provided relevant records. You spent several hours with Dr. Dielmann being interviewed. Dr. Dielmann reviewed hundreds of pages of records, transcripts, as well as criminal case file contents to make her determination."

The complaint would have been referred to the full JDDC panel for a formal hearing had the investigative panel comprising a judge, layperson and an attorney determined there was probable cause to do so. The full panel could have recommended that Naramore be removed from the bench.

The Arkansas Supreme Court lifted Naramore's interim paid suspension Feb. 23. It was imposed the previous February, but Naramore hadn't presided over Division 2, which hears all of the county's juvenile cases, since the death of his son. The suspension was lifted on the condition Naramore not be assigned dependent-neglect cases, which involve allegations that include parental unfitness, child abuse and abandonment.

The Supreme Court approved an amended administrative plan Monday that redistributes case assignments in the 18th East Judicial District. The new plan assigns Division 3 Judge Lynn Williams all of the dependent-neglect cases. Naramore will hear all other juvenile cases and 45 percent of the county's domestic relations cases, which involve divorce and child custody proceedings.

"The commission recognizes the uniqueness of this situation in the history of Arkansas and even as a matter of first impression in national judicial discipline cases," the dismissal letter said. "The investigative panel did not take their responsibility lightly, nor do they perceive that you do in your role as a judge.

"Your cooperation, and that of your counsel, was appreciated and certainly helped make this difficult and tragic situation less adversarial."

Local on 03/04/2017
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