LITTLE ROCK — A state panel that disciplines judges said Thursday it has filed formal charges against Monticello District Judge Ken Harper in connection with alleged abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs.
Harper resigned on Wednesday, a Monticello District Court clerk said. A spokesman for the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission said Harper’s resignation will not affect the proceedings against him.
Harper has 30 days to respond to the charges. He can request a trial by the commission.
If proven, the allegations could result in a range of sanctions including a prohibition against ever serving again as a judge in Arkansas.
The commission previously reprimanded and censured Harper in November. At that time the panel agreed to take no further action if Harper agreed to take certain actions to address his problem, but it alleged Thursday that Harper has not complied with the terms of the agreement.
The charges allege Harper has been purchasing alcohol, drinking in public and being intoxicated in public since he was censured. It also claims he has failed to provide proof of at least weekly attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and has not submitted to alcohol testing.
On June 30, a state trooper stopped Harper’s vehicle, which was driven by an unlicensed driver with a record of multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions, including driving while intoxicated, according to the commission. Harper was the judge in some of the driver’s convictions.
The trooper found in the vehicle two bottles of alcohol that the commission alleges were purchased by the driver at Harper’s request. The driver then phoned Harper, who allegedly asked to speak to the trooper in what the commission says was an attempt to interfere in the traffic stop.
The panel also says Harper has moved in with a woman who has been convicted of multiple criminal and traffic offenses, and that Harper served as the judge in some of the convictions.
On Sept. 7, officers responded to an incident at Harper’s home in which part of a fence was knocked down. The officers reported that Harper was intoxicated, according to the commission.
The panel also says multiple witnesses have provided information about Harper’s abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs.
In addition to alleging that Harper violated multiple rules of judicial conduct, the commission claims he may have a disability — alcoholism — that makes him unfit to serve.
The panel said in a release it “may recommend that the judge be forced into involuntary retirement by the Arkansas Supreme Court” because of his possible disability.
A phone call to a listed number for Kenneth Harper of Monticello was not immediately returned Thursday.