In a statement published in the Thursday, Feb. 13 edition of the Pine Bluff Commercial, Kandice Bell said the following:
Contemplating how she could enter the legal profession in her birthplace of Pine Bluff, Kandice Bell reached out to a local attorney; however, it was Jefferson County Circuit Judge (Ret.) Berlin C. Jones who would first impact her young life.
At the ripe age of 20, Bell recalls sitting across from the judge in his chambers. “Judge Jones told me stories of how he got started and his pathway to the bench. He was always encouraging, and I will never forget him allowing me to shadow him and get a front row seat to the practice of law, but from his view from the bench.” Judge Jones told Bell, a licensed attorney for the past 21 years, to run for judge two years ago because ‘time is passing and the opportunity will not be here for long.’ “I did not feel a calling to run for judge at that time, or I would have done so; however, my time is now, and the calling was for me to run for State District Judge, Pine Bluff Department. I had not set money aside or put a team in place to help me. I entered this race with having only angel’s wings on my back.”
Attorney Kandice Bell announced her candidacy on August 20, 2019, and shortly thereafter, Judge Jones endorsed her candidacy. “It is nothing short of an honor to have a local circuit judge who knows the community, familiar with my ability, and knows the job of a judge to endorse me. It is on this background that Judge Jones made the decision to endorse me as the right person for this judgeship. I had people like Judge Jones in mind when I did my very best at two public candidate forums and with how I have run my campaign.”
Betty Dickey, former Jefferson County Prosecutor and the first woman prosecutor in Jefferson and Lincoln counties hired State District Judge Candidate Bell, and six of Dickey’s former attorney staff have become judges in Jefferson/Lincoln counties, namely, and in no particular order: Waymond Brown (Local District Court/Arkansas Court of Appeals); Kim Bridgeforth (State District Judge); Earnest Brown, Jr. (Circuit/Juvenile Judge); Jodi Dennis (Circuit Judge); Rob Wyatt (Circuit Judge), and Philip Green (State District Judge).
“I will make the seventh judge out of the attorneys/law clerks hired by Dickey should I win this seat and would make history alongside my former boss as a ‘first’-the first African-American woman judge in the dual counties and first woman judge in District 29, Division 2 (Pine Bluff).” Qualified, experienced, and trusted, Bell was selected a special judge by Pulaski County District Judge David Stewart to hear code enforcement cases for the day in his absence- before Bell had reached 30 years old or had practiced law for five years. Bell believes it was at that time that it was in-bedded in her that she could be a judge one day.
Governor Asa Hutchinson also believed in Bell and appointed her a Special Associate Justice to the Arkansas Supreme Court in a case. Not long after, Bell was selected a special judge in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Judge Earnest Brown, Jr.
Kandice Bell is now Senior Counselor and District Representative in Southeast Arkansas to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. Her commitment to her profession has also landed her other big honors, including: the 2019 Arkansas Bar Association’s Golden Gavel Award; selection to the 2019 Inaugural Class of the Public Service Academy, which she attributes to one of her favorite law professors, Howard Brill, at the University of Arkansas School of Law at Fayetteville, and election to the Board of Governors.
Additionally, Bell was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court or its full Court to serve on a Committee, Taskforce, and Working Group of the Court, to which she has made significant contributions to each. Bell has described her candidacy as coupling the needs of her community with a value-based platform to actually start effectively addressing the needs of the Pine Bluff residents. She plans to do so by recommending court programs rather than establishing individual relationships which do not have the same strength and gravity of a court-sanctioned program.
“We must commit to long-standing programs that speak to our values rather than our personalities, which are often why we stop at merely developing relationships.” Programs that speak to the ills of domestic violence, anger management, addiction, illiteracy, and income and housing insecurities will be the start of rehabilitating a community of recidivism that Pine Bluff has seen for generations. Programs that allow waiver of jail and fines for the agreement to seek treatment, counseling, career education or trade skills development is the direction in which Bell would like to take the State District Court. Programs exist across the state that can be modeled right here at home.
Bell believes her policy and court administration experience, together with the practice of law, provides her with the right type of experience to make appropriate recommendations for consideration by the Jefferson County Bar. Bell is living in her purpose and feels accomplished having made the decision to run for judge and everything that has come since making the courageous step to walk in her purpose. “Blessed to have been mentored, I have mentored others long before ever considering my own judicial candidacy; and by it, I have truly been blessed.
With respect to becoming a judge, I could not feel more ready to advance my leadership and career in the place where I was born and raised. Please, get out and vote for new leadership now.” State District Judge Candidate Bell and her family live in White Hall where her parents have resided for the past 41 years and reared their children in White Hall/Pine Bluff. Her parents are the Drs. James and Josephine Bell, retired professor emeritus from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Bell has one sister, Dr. Kimbra Bell Balark (Sam, Sr., twins Alexandria and Sam, Jr.), and a brother Bruce Bell (Mary, nieces Kristin and Kamryn). Her paternal grandparents are the late Mr. Fred and Cassie Bell of Helena, Arkansas and maternal grandparents are the late Mr. Willie and Emma Crawford of Columbus, Georgia.