Danielson not seeking re-election on Arkansas Supreme Court; Womack launches bid



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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A member of the Arkansas Supreme Court who accused other justices of unnecessarily delaying a decision on whether to legalize gay marriage said Tuesday he won't seek re-election, while a former Republican legislator announced he was running for the seat.

Associate Justice Paul Danielson announced he would not seek another eight-year term on the court next year, citing a state law that prohibited him from serving beyond the age of 70 without forfeiting his retirement benefits.

"I am eternally grateful to the people of Arkansas for allowing me the privilege of serving on this court for what will be ten years, after having served 12 years as a circuit judge," Danielson said in a prepared statement. "And it has been my honor and pleasure to work among such esteemed colleagues over the years."

Danielson, who was first elected to the court in 2006, announced his retirement the same day Circuit Judge Shawn Womack launched his campaign for the state Supreme Court seat. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Womack last month to fill in for Danielson on a dispute over which justices should participate in the gay marriage lawsuit.

Danielson and Chief Justice Jim Hannah recused themselves from the spinoff case, which they called a tactic to delay the gay marriage challenge.

"I cannot be complicit in machinations which have the effect of depriving justice to any party before this court," Danielson wrote in his recusal letter.

Womack and the rest of the court ruled earlier this month that a justice who took office in January should participate in the case but not a special justice appointed last year who heard oral arguments in November.

Womack, who served 10 years in the state House and Senate, announced his bid to an audience that included several Republican legislators and the chairman of the state GOP. Womack introduced legislation in 2007 to ban gays and lesbians from fostering or adopting children, a move that passed the Senate but failed before a House committee.

His proposal was in response to the state Supreme Court in 2006 striking down a state regulation banning gays and lesbians from being foster parents. Voters approved a similar restriction in 2008, which was also struck down by the court.

During his announcement, Womack said he'll respect the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

"I want you to know I know the difference. The role of the court is not the role of the Legislature," Womack said. "There is that separation of powers."


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