LITTLE ROCK — A Miller County circuit judge improperly issued a ruling in a case in which he previously served as prosecutor, the Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday.


The state’s highest court reversed a ruling by Judge Brent Haltom that denied a petition filed by Paul Latham, who alleged that a 75-year sentence for rape that he received in 1993 was illegal.


Because Haltom served as prosecutor at Latham’s trial, it is not proper for him to preside over any appeals in the case, the Supreme Court said.


“A serious appearance of impropriety is created when a judge rules in a case in which he or she prosecuted the petitioner at trial in that case. Judges must refrain from presiding over cases in which they might be interested,” the court said in a two-page order.


The high court sent the case back to Miller County Circuit Court to be heard by a different judge.