Judge Removes Himself from Lawsuit over Disputed State Senate Race

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A judge who fought attempts by a former state lawmaker to remove from a lawsuit over a disputed 2006 Democratic primary has recused from the case.

St. Francis County Judge L.T. Simes decided to ask that a new judge be appointed to the case involving former state Representative Arnell Willis' complaint over his 78-vote loss to Jack Crumbly.

Simes dismissed Willis' lawsuit in December.  In a ruling this month, the state Supreme Court ordered new hearings in the case, saying voters who cast illegal ballots in contested elections can be forced to testify how they voted.

The Supreme Court, however, rejected Willis' request that they appoint a special judge to preside over the hearings.  Mike Easley, Willis' attorney, and St. Francis County attorney Fletcher Long said Simes removed himself from the case Friday after he and both sides could not agree on a soon-enough date for the new trial to begin.

Crumbly didn't have an opponent in the general election.  He was sworn in as senator in Janaury.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)