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Ark. justice dating class action lawyer

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 8, 2011


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - An Arkansas Supreme Court justice has promised to recuse herself from any cases involving a Texarkana attorney she is dating or his law firm.

Justice Courtney Henry vowed to do so in an interview with The Associated Press on Jan. 31. On the same day, the Arkansas Times, in a blog post, revealed a disclosure form she filed Jan. 28, listing the more than $100,000 in gifts attorney John Goodson gave her.

The gifts, according to the form, included: nine trips -- including "lodging, expenditures and entertainment" -- ranging from $3,000 to $9,000 each, earrings valued at $9,500, a watch valued at $22,500, a necklace for $4,000, a coat for $6,700, two iPads for $2,157.53, a Wii for about $350, miscellaneous clothing for $1,862.95, a second coat for $780.63, various bags ranging from about $650 to more than $1,500, and a third coat for about $1,000.

The gifts she accepted from her lawyer boyfriend date back to June.

Henry, a former state appeals court judge, was elected to the state's high court in May. Henry told the AP that she and Goodson have been dating for "several months."

Also in her disclosure form, Henry reported that she owes Goodson more than $5,000, but includes no other details.

Henry's disclosure has some wondering, is it OK for a sitting judge to receive such gifts as long as she reports them?

Max Brantley, a political reporter and editor for the Arkansas Times, said in his blog post that he thinks the answer is yes -- and as long as the judge recuses herself from any cases involving her boyfriend or his firm.

Goodson, meanwhile, is known for his work on a class action lawsuit resulting in a $400 million payout to policyholders who alleged that hundreds of insurance companies have used or currently use Computer Science's software program Colossus to engage in conspiracies to systematically undervalue bodily injury claim settlements. He served as the lead plaintiffs' attorney.

The plaintiffs attorneys described the software as a "cost containment tool" used to "enhance (the insurance companies') profits at the expense of first party insured."

The suit faulted the defendants for civil conspiracy, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and fraud.

The original Miller County Colossus case was filed on Feb. 7, 2005, by the plaintiff Georgia Hensley, individually and as class representative.

It is often called the largest class-action lawsuit ever filed in America.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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