Judge Sara M. Sawyer-Hartness has announced her candidacy for the position of District Judge for the newly formed 28th District Court, serving Drew and Bradley counties.
The 28th District Court was formed by the Arkansas Legislature in April of 2015 merging the Bradley and Drew County district courts, presided over by one full time judge. The election to fill this position will be held on March 1, 2016. All candidates for judicial office run as non-partisan candidates with the elections being held during the primary election.
Judge Hartness is currently the Drew County District Court Judge. Since January of 2015, she has presided over more than 4,191 cases, resolving 2,741. The cases include traffic violations, civil and criminal trials, evictions and small claims. She has also worked with the Drew County Judge, the Mayor of Monticello and other officials in an ongoing project to convert the old library into a new court building that will allow not only the Drew County Division of the District Court but the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court to run more efficiently in a more appropriate setting.
Judge Hartness was born and raised in Grosse Pointe Michigan, the fourth of five children. She received a Bachelors of Art degree from Michigan State University and studied Law at the Michigan State College of Law. She was first licensed to practice law in Michigan in 1984, and was employed by one of the oldest civil defense firms in the State as a trial attorney.
In 1988, Hartness moved to Monticello Arkansas where she continued practicing law. The following year, she was hired as a deputy prosecuting attorney assigned to work with the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force. While with the drug task force, she assisted agents in investigating drug trafficking in the Southeast Arkansas region, preparing cases for trial and the actual trial of many, many cases in both Drew and Bradley counties.
“Substance abuse remains one of the greatest challenges facing society today,” Hartness said. “A close look below the surface of most crimes, typically reveals either drug or alcohol abuse. “If I can use my position as a Judge to persuade one person along the path of sobriety, it will have a positive effect on so many people.”
Hartness is a member of the American Bar Association, the Arkansas Bar Association and the Southeast Arkansas Legal Institute, where she served as president. She has enjoyed a successful practice of law in Monticello for 26 years, where she is routinely voted one of the best lawyers in Drew County through the local “best of the best” competition.
As part of the changes brought about by the new redistricting of the court, district judges will now be charged with hearing domestic relations orders of protection, uncontested divorces, civil cases involving claims as high as $25,000, and perform other duties as may be requested by the circuit courts. She believes her years of actual trial experience in every court in Southeast Arkansas have prepared her to sit as Judge in the newly formed 28th District Court.
Hartness is married to Steve Hartness, a lifelong Monticello native. Together, they have successfully joined a blended a family consisting of four children and three grandchildren. She is an active member of St. Mark Catholic Church in Monticello, where she serves as a lay reader, Eucharistic minister, and has been appointed by Bishop Taylor to act as an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister. Sara and Steve coordinate an Angle Tree Christmas project through St. Mark’s. Steve is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Monticello.
Judge Hartness, like many members of her family, is a proud veteran. She served in the Signal Corps in Heidelberg, Germany, her father served in the Medical Corps during WWII, her eldest brother was a platoon sargent in Vietnam, her stepson, Kerry Hartness, was deployed with the Arkansas National Guard twice after 9-11, and her youngest son, Michael Sawyer, served for three years in the infantry, stationed at Ft. Drum, New York.
Judge Hartness hopes to continue her service to this community as the 28th District Court Judge, treating all who appear before the court with dignity, respect and understanding.