On Friday, May 31, 2024, the Arkansas Times reported that the Arkansas Supreme Court admonished Circuit Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch for his comments and actions related to a case regarding whether attorneys are allowed to carry firearms in courthouses and courtrooms.

The issue began earlier in May when the Supreme Court reversed one of Judge Welch’s prior rulings and found that attorneys do have a right to bring guns into courthouse common areas. In response, Judge Welch issued a new order in early May that allowed firearms in common areas but reserved on whether they could be in courtrooms. However, according to the Supreme Court, Judge Welch took it too far by criticizing their ruling in his order. Specifically, Welch nicknamed the ruling the “Lawyer/officer-of-the-court Carry Opinion” and repeatedly referred to it by the acronym “LOCO”, which means crazy or insane in Spanish.

As a result, on May 13th the Supreme Court removed Welch from the case and ordered him to respond to allegations that he violated judicial conduct rules with his comments. Welch submitted a written apology on May 20th acknowledging his wording should not have made it into his order but arguing his actions did rise to an ethical violation. However, the Supreme Court strongly disagreed and found Welch violated multiple conduct rules involving promoting confidence in the judiciary, impartiality, and fairness, and prohibiting bias, prejudice or harassment.

Due to failing to recognize the severity of his actions, the Supreme Court formally admonished Welch and ordered him to complete a six-week online ethics course through the National Judicial College, as well as three additional hours of continuing legal education.

Judge Karen Whatley replaced Welch on the case and issued a new order on May 17th allowing attorneys to carry guns in courthouses statewide but reserved on courtrooms.



Source: Arkansas Times