Judges Argue, Threaten to Arrest Each Other, Over Courtroom Scheduling

A scheduling conflict between two judges needing to use the same Searcy County courtroom Wednesday morning started an argument that escalated to threats of arrest, witnesses said.

Searcy County District Judge Jerry Patterson said he and 20th Circuit Court Judge Rhonda K. Wood were scheduled to have the courtroom in Marshall. Patterson was set to hear small claims lawsuits, while Wood had criminal cases set to be heard.

Witnesses who declined to be identified told the Harrison Daily Times the two judges threatened each other with contempt citations — even arrest and possible jail time — over the scheduling dispute. Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said a state trooper was dispatched to the courthouse over the dispute, but was called off before he arrived because "his services were not needed."

Searcy County sheriff's deputies said they had no one in the courtroom and referred all calls to the prosecutor's office. Marcus Vaden, an employee in the prosecutor's office, declined to comment.

That afternoon, Wood took the bench for a few minutes, then yielded to Patterson.

Both judges said they had no hard feelings from the dispute.

"I have the utmost respect for [Patterson]," Wood said.

The judges said neither of them had a very full docket, so it was possible for both to use the room as necessary. However, they said there is a chance similar scheduling problems could arise in the weeks to come.