Editor’s note: As 2011 draws to a close, Seark Today has selected the top 10 regional stories of the year. The criteria used to select these stories were impact, widespread interest, and/or prominence of those involved.

Ken Harper

8. District Judge censured, reprimanded for alcohol use

Monticello District Judge Ken Harper, who pleaded guilty to DWI in September, was publicly reprimanded and censured by the state Judicial Discipline and Disciplinary Commission.

Harper, according to the letter of reprimand, admitted having an alcohol problem.

In addition to his July arrest for DWI and subsequent guilty plea, Harper is alleged to have taken the bench on May 18 while under the influence of alcohol, conducted bond hearings while physically and mentally impaired, had to be guided through his own docket while under the influence of prescription drugs on July 5, briefly attended a public meeting in April while under the influence of alcohol, and was involved in a confrontation with the Monticello Economic Development Commission director in April while under the influence of alcohol, according to a letter of censure issued to Harper.

“For your actions… you are hereby issued a letter of Censure,” the letter reads. “You have agreed that this sanction is appropriate and that more serious sanctions could have been imposed. Your honesty with the JDDC staff, willingness to take steps to combat your alcohol and substance abuse and promise to adhere to (certain conditions) have led the JDDC to refrain from recommending suspension or removal from the bench.”

Those conditions include: proof of attendance of weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, alcohol testing, no positive alcohol tests, no consumption of alcohol, no use of prescription medication unless directed by a licensed Arkansas physician, no DWI or other criminal offenses during the compliance period which ends January 1, 2013.