LITTLE ROCK — A Little Rock lawyer is facing off with a circuit judge and former state legislator from Mountain Home in the race for Position 5 on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

LITTLE ROCK — A Little Rock lawyer is facing off with a circuit judge and former state legislator from Mountain Home in the race for Position 5 on the Arkansas Supreme Court.


Lawyer Clark Mason and Circuit Judge Shawn Womack are competing for the position now held by Justice Paul Danielson, who is retiring.


Mason, 56, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi and a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has been in private practice in Little Rock for 32 years.


He and his wife, Janell, have three sons.


Womack, 43, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a law degree from the University of Arkansas. After obtaining his law degree in 1996, he took a job on the staff of U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, then started a private practice in Mountain Home a year later. He served in the state House from 1999-2003 and in the state Senate from 2003-2009, and he has been a circuit judge since 2009.


He and his wife, Melinda, have two children.


Mason said his interest in serving on the Supreme Court began when former Gov. Mike Beebe appointed him as a special justice in a case that produced the landmark 2010 decision Baptist Health v. Murphy, which held that an Arkansas hospital cannot deny privileges to a doctor because the doctor has an economic interest in a competing hospital.


"It really made me appreciate how the decisions of our Supreme Court can have such a significant impact on the people of our state," he said.


Womack said he decided to run because "I believe we need good people making good decisions and using a decision-making process that holds true to the Constitution while respecting the important functions and limitations that each branch of government has. We also need justices who will respect the rule of law and apply it fairly, as written, to all parties and cases."


Asked to describe his judicial philosophy, Mason said, "Let the case be decided solely upon the facts and the evidence and nothing else. There’s no room for politics and there’s no room for special interests whatsoever.


Mason said he has "no agenda at all."


"Unlike my opponent, I’ve practiced law all my life. I have not been a politician (as he was) essentially from the time he got out of law school."


Womack said he has "a conservative judicial philosophy."


"By that I mean that my view is that the courts have a very important role in our government process, but that they also have a very limited role. Understanding and maintaining the separation of powers between the three co-equal branches of government is central to that philosophy," he said.


Womack said that although Mason has never been a politician, "it is just not true to say that he has no partisan history. While my history as a Republican legislator is well known, your readers may not know that Democrats across Arkansas and the nation have been able to rely on my opponent as a major donor for many years to Democrat candidates and causes. We both have a history of involvement in partisan activities that can documented."


Mason said he has donated to, and voted for, both Republican and Democratic candidates over the years.


The Republican State Leadership Committee has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads and mailers attacking Mason by, among other things, claiming he "admits his support for Obama’s executive actions that kill Arkansas jobs while making trial lawyers rich."


The Rapid Response Team of the Arkansas Judicial Campaign Conduct & Education Committee, a watchdog group, has labeled that claim "false and misleading," noting that it appeared in a flyer that cited, as factual support, a page on the website of Mason’s law office containing nothing about executive orders or Obama.


The RSLC has said the claim was based on a blog post, since removed from Mason’s site, that stated in part that a new executive order "prohibits companies that pursue government contracts from requiring their workers to agree upfront to mandatory arbitration. Hopefully this will be the first step in restoring the right to trial by jury for millions of Americans."


On Tuesday, Mason issued a statement that responded to the RSLC and took some jabs at Womack. He said in the statement that the outside group knows "I will be a fair and impartial justice who will not sell out the people of Arkansas, and they are trying to hide the fact that my opponent was formally charged with two counts of misconduct by the Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct and fined by the committee on both counts."


Womack said that nearly a decade ago, before he was a judge, he had to pay a $50 fine when a client in a case that he had won for her filed a complaint.


"The problem boiled down to an issue of communication with a client over a couple of hundred dollars in the case," he said. "This is a far cry from the type of negligence that was alleged against my opponent in Musticchi v. Mason, when his own client filed a lawsuit against him for professional negligence (malpractice). In that case, my opponent’s client alleged that he had bungled the case and severely comprised the client’s ability to recover for property damage in a tragic plane crash case."


Mason responded, "There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that my opponent made denying the people of Arkansas full access to the judicial system the hallmark of his political career, but now wants the very citizens whose rights he focused on limiting to support him, and help elect him, to serve on the highest court in our judicial system."


As a legislator, Womack co-sponsored a bill, later partially struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court, that limited the amount of damages that could be awarded in civil cases.


"It is true that as a legislator I took a position in favor of that issue," Womack said. "It is equally true that my opponent, a past president of the trial lawyers lobby, has opposed tort reform. The difference is that now, and for past seven-plus years, I have been a judge and my role is to apply the law and not advocate for a specific outcome while my opponent has spent his entire career as an advocate for hire."


Early voting continues Saturday and Monday for Tuesday’s primary and nonpartisan judicial election.