No reason for a ‘big hurry’
By JAMES L. WHITE
Judge Fred Kirkpatrick retired from the 4th Judicial District Court on Jan. 1, but last week he returned to the bench in Harrison for a day. The legal world is one he knows well.
He was a 14th Judicial Circuit deputy prosecuting attorney for the lion’s share of 24 years.
Kirkpatrick was elected Boone County District Court judge in 2004 and took the bench Jan. 1, 2005. At that time, the position was actually part-time and he continued in his private law practice as well.
“It did not become full-time for another two years,” he said.
He was in the first group of district judges that became full-time judges employed by the state as the district court system was revised based on the size of the court docket.
In the beginning, he was still Boone County district judge. Eventually the revision continued and he became the 4th Judicial District judge with the addition of Newton and Searcy counties. Alpena District Court is a part of the 4th Judicial because the city had developed a city court prior to the revisions and it was grandfathered in.
After spending 16 years on the bench, he retired and Gail Inman Campbell was elected to succeed him. Ironically, she had been appointed to fill out the remainder of a term that expired when he was first elected in 2004.
Since his retirement, he has still done some district court hearings in Mountain Home. Inman-Campbell was called away last week and Kirkpatrick conducted court in Harrison in her place.
He said there are many things he misses about being on the bench on a daily basis, especially the clerks who run the office.
“Some of us were together for the whole time I was here,” he said. “It becomes like family.”
Kirkpatrick praised that staff for the modifications they initiated to handle the court system through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They often held court from the loading dock of the courthouse for some routine proceedings to avoid people having to go into the building.
He also misses the actual courtroom and dealing with attorneys.
“I am one,” he said with a laugh. “I like attorneys, as a general rule.”
The part he doesn’t miss is the administrative portion of the position, mainly always having to be concerned with budgets and coordinating an office with four departments.
Kirkpatrick talked about the positive changes Inman-Campbell has brought to the office. It never hurts to have a fresh pair of eyes to a job where one could fall into a rut.
“I always believed in treating people as people, individually, try to be as fair as possible,” he said, although he acknowledged that he often saw some of the same people over and again.
As for the future, he said he will still most likely enter back into the world of law as the years go on.
“I don’t know how to do anything else,” he joked. “But I’m not in a big hurry this very minute.”