About Richard Sheppard Arnold
Richard Sheppard Arnold (March 26, 1936 – September 23, 2004) was a judge of the U.S. District Court and then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Two presidents, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, considered naming Arnold to the United States Supreme Court. Polly Price, a former Arnold law clerk and an Emory University law professor who has written a biography of Arnold, said that the judge will be remembered like the great jurist Learned Hand: "perhaps the best judge never to serve on the Supreme Court." In May 2002, the U.S. Courthouse in Little Rock was renamed in Judge Arnold’s honor.
President Jimmy Carter nominated Arnold, a fellow Democrat, to the District Court of both the Eastern and Western districts of Arkansas on August 14, 1978. Barely a year later, on December 19, 1979, Carter named Arnold to a new position on the appeals court headquartered in St. Louis—a seat to which he previously had very publicly considered nominating law school professor Joan Krauskopf but eventually opted not to proceed with because of Krauskopf's "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association. Arnold was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 20, 1980.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Arnold to the Eighth Circuit on February 20, 1980. Arnold maintained his chambers in Little Rock. He served as Chief Judge of the Eighth Circuit from 1992 to 1998. He assumed senior status on April 1, 2001, which allowed him to lighten his workload and to concentrate in detail on fewer cases. During his last twelve years on the court, he served with his younger brother, Judge Morris S. "Buzz" Arnold, a Republican appointed by President George Herbert Walker Bush.
Early years, family, education
Arnold was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, the son of Richard Lewis Arnold, a specialist in public utilities law. All the men on both sides of his family were lawyers. His grandfather, William H. Arnold, Sr., practiced law in Texarkana and was a circuit judge and an Arkansas Bar Association president. Arnold's uncle, William H. Arnold, Jr. (died 1977), was a Rhodes Scholar and the leading expert on oil and gas in Arkansas.
Arnold's maternal grandfather was Democratic U.S. Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas, who served from 1913 until his death in office. Morris Sheppard was also the grandfather of former U.S. Senator Connie Mack, III, a Florida Republican banker. Arnold said that he "never really considered being anything else but a lawyer."
Arnold completed the Classical Studies program at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1953. He then attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he majored in Latin and Greek, was president of the Yale Debating Association, a member of the Elizabethan Club, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated summa cum laude first in his class in 1957. He received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1960, again graduating first in his class.
Arnold married the former Gale Hussman of Camden in 1958, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1975. Gale's father was the Arkansas publisher and mass media mogul Walter E. Hussman, Sr., the granddaughter of another publisher, Clyde E. Palmer, and the sister of a third, Walter E. Hussman, Jr.],] of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Arnold had two daughters by Gale: Janet Sheppard Arnold Hart of San Carlos, California, and Lydia Palmer Arnold of Syracuse, New York. Both daughters went on to become lawyers. Ms. Arnold is an adjunct professor at Syracuse University College of Law. His daughters each had two children: Evan Antonio Hart and Saxon McGrath Hart, both of San Carlos, California, and Lucile Mae Turnipseed and Grace Arnold Turnipseed, both of Syracuse, New York. Arnold's daughters and grandchildren all survived him. In 1979, he married the former Kay Kelley, who also survived him.
Arnold was also general counsel for his first father-in-law's Palmer Media Group, which in 1973 became WEHCO Media, Inc., the corporate owner of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He provided advice on libel law, contracts for new presses, and cable television franchise renewals.
Lawyer in Washington and Texarkana
Arnold clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, from 1960-1961. He once told a friend that while he admired Brennan, he disagreed with many of Brennan's interpretations of the United States Constitution. Arnold joined the law practice of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., from 1961 to 1964. He also taught part-time at the University of Virginia Law School. He then became a partner in his family-owned Arnold & Arnold firm in Texarkana, Arkansas, from 1964 to 1973. He was a delegate to the seventh Arkansas Constitutional Convention from 1969 to 1970.
Twice he ran unsuccessfully in the critical Democratic primary for the United States House of Representatives. He lost in 1966 to David Hampton Pryor of Camden for the Fourth Congressional District seat vacated by then newly-appointed U.S. District Judge Oren Harris. Pryor then won the House seat in the general election against the Republican A. Lynn Lowe, a Texarkana farmer also born in 1936. In 1968, Arnold was a delegate to the tumultuous Democratic National Convention, which met in Chicago to assemble the Humphrey-Muskie ticket, the first Democratic team to lose the electoral votes of Arkansas since Reconstruction, having been defeated by George Wallace's then American Independent Party. Arnold was beaten again in the 1972 congressional primary by then Attorney General Ray Thornton, of Sheridan in Grant County.
In 1973, Arnold became legislative secretary to Governor Dale Leon Bumpers in Little Rock. In 1975, he became legislative assistant to newly-elected U.S. Senator Bumpers in Washington. He remained on Bumpers's staff until 1978.
Consideration for the Supreme Court
Arnold was considered "a principled liberal and an old-fashioned Southern gentleman." He befriended a young Bill Clinton, who later as President, according to Clinton's autobiography "My Life", would have named Arnold to the Supreme Court in 1994 had not the jurist been long diagnosed with lymphoma. Jeffrey Toobin also wrote in "The Nine" (at p. 79) of "Clinton ... weeping when he" told Arnold "he wasn't going to appoint him" because of Arnold's health.
Justice Robert L. Brown of the Arkansas Supreme Court, another long-time friend, said that he knew no one "who is held in higher esteem. As we all know, he should’ve been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m sorry that did not happen. He was the man for the job."
Arnold had first been suggested for the seat in 1970 when former opponent Pryor, who later described himself as a "very, very close friend" of Arnold's, wrote a letter to President Nixon, who was looking for a Southerner to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Nixon went with the failed Harrold Carswell nomination instead.
Arnold's judicial temperament
Attorney Mark Arnold (not related to Judge Arnold) of the Husch Blackwell Sanders firm in St. Louis called him "the best judge I ever saw -- brilliant mind and yet as pragmatic and as down to earth a man as you would ever find. And yet, as good a judge as he was, he was an even better person -- modest, unassuming, a man of principle and conviction, yet always open-minded and willing to listen." One of Arnold's former law clerks described him as "a brilliant attorney with a self-effacing kindness and affability unlike any I have ever seen."
Arnold was a member of a plethora of professional and civic associations. He won many honors, including the Environmental Law Institute Award in 1996, the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award in 1999, and the Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Award, named for the former U.S. Supreme Court justice from Virginia who was appointed by President Nixon in 1971 to replace Justice Hugo L. Black.
The Eighth Circuit hears appeals from federal cases in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. In his court tenure, Arnold penned approximately seven hundred written opinions which displayed a mastery of the written word and were considered well-reasoned and focused. Arnold also wrote legal articles for law reviews and journals. He wrote in a simple style so that laymen too could understand his findings.
In "A Tribute to Chief Judge Richard S. Arnold" in the Minnesota Law Review (Vol. 78, No. 1, 1993), Justice Brennan and Judge Patricia M. Wald were among the jurists who hailed Arnold's judicial record of accomplishment.
Key legal cases
Arnold participated in several noteworthy cases.
He was integral to the three-judge panel that upheld a lower court ruling which released the Little Rock School District from more than forty years of federal court supervision of its desegregation efforts. Arnold wrote the 22-page opinion.
In one of his most widely-known cases, Arnold ruled that the Jaycees, or the Junior Chamber of Commerce, could exclude women as members. He was overturned by the Supreme Court.
Other significant decisions included a strongly worded 1985 opinion in a school desegregation case in which he and other judges on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis held that consolidation was not the answer to de facto segregation in Pulaski County public schools.
Another of Arnold’s prominent rulings was a landmark 1989 decision that he authored for a three-judge panel requiring the Arkansas Board of Apportionment to create super-majority districts to ensure that voters in the Mississippi Delta would elect some African American state legislators. In 1990, when Bill Clinton won his last term as governor, Arkansas voters set precedent by electing blacks to one position in the Arkansas State Senate and ten of the one hundred seats in the Arkansas House of Representatives.
Arnold was considered neither liberal nor conservative on the bench, with his decisionmaking stemming from the facts of the case. However, he was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. He worked in one case to secure religious liberties for a Black Muslim in prison. Judge Morris Arnold said that his older brother had a "sense of balance and fairness. He never had an apparent ideological ax to grind."
Arnold was not a fan of unpublished opinions. He wrote in Anastasoff v. United States that unpublished opinions were still precedent that had to be relied on by other judges.
Arnold, who was known for his trademark bow ties, died from an infection which developed during treatment for lymphoma at the Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Though he had been ill prior to his death, he had remained active on the bench.
Morris Arnold said that what stood out about his brother was the "consistently high-quality work he has done. He was second to none in the country. I mean that literally."
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas described Arnold as "a brilliant, brilliant man. . . a model of humility and self-deprecation." Another justice, Antonin Scalia of Virginia, said that Arnold's "carefully reasoned and beautifully written opinions were models of the art of judging. He has been a friend of mine since the days when he finished ahead of me (and first in the class) at Harvard Law School."
Services for Judge Arnold were held in the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on West 17th Street in Little Rock. There was a standing-room-only throng in the sanctuary, which seats five hundred.