March/April 2009 issue

Judge Richard Arnold’s Biographer Speaks at UALR


by Crata Castleberry, Branch Librarian, Little Rock

Polly Price, Judge Richard Arnold’s former law clerk and official biographer, spoke on Friday, April 17, at the UALR Bowen School of Law. She chose Judge Arnold’s “year” as a District Court Judge for the topic. Price said it was her favorite part of the book to write. Also, his District Court rulings proved influential during his time on the 8th Circuit.

Judge Arnold was the only judge to have two appointments by President Carter, first to the District Court, then to the 8th Circuit. Present at his swearing-in ceremony were two prominent Arkansans, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Bill Cinton was then Attorney General of Arkansas. In his remarks at the ceremony, Clinton said he was often told that he was almost as smart as Richard Arnold.

During his time on the District Court, Judge Arnold worked on the largest backlog (over 400) of civil rights cases in the country. Price discussed several of these cases. In Dodson v. Arkansas Activities Association, Judge Arnold ruled that girls’ civil rights were violated by not allowing them to play full-court basketball. Price was in high school during this time when her basketball team was suddenly allowed to play full-court ball. She later learned this good fortune was because of Judge Arnold’s opinion.

In Taylor v. Jones, he ordered, for the only time in his career, a quota as a remedy for an employment discrimination case. In Taylor, Judge Arnold ordered the Arkansas National Guard to hire one black for every three white employees it hired until blacks made up 16 % of the guard’s civilian workforce. At that time, blacks made up 16% of Arkansas population.

Price added that she will be part of a panel at the Workshop for Judges of the District of Columbia Circuit on June 5, 2009 about preserving judges’ papers. She will focus on what kinds of private papers were important for the biography of Judge Arnold. She said historians of all kinds find that judges’ papers are of great use, quite apart from a biography. For example, in the case of Judge Arnold, his letters and papers on the Little Rock desegregation case are valuable in their own right.

Polly Price is currently Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law.