Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in October. 10 issues of Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then and Now” is the profile of 40 past members of the business magazine’s 40 Under 40s.
The ultimate goal of jurists is to be universally recognized as fair and impartial. They should make decisions based on objective criteria, not prejudice, prejudice or favoritism.
In a recent interview, Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green emphasized this point with a sense of humor.
“We made a joke among the judges,” she said. “On bad days, we drive half of the people crazy. On good days, we drive everyone crazy.”
For nearly 13 years, Green has strived to treat both sides of a case fairly and with respect, presiding over the First Division of the Benton County Circuit Court, which hears civil cases and half of the felonies in the judicial district. She was first elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2014 and 2020.
“I really enjoy public service,” she said. “In this role, I protect the rights of defendants and victims of crime, and work to keep our community safe. This is a very valuable position.”
A native of Arkansas from Searcy (White County), Green moved to Fayetteville in 1990 and has never left the area. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and business from Hendricks College in 1990 and then attended the University of Arkansas School of Law. In 1993, she received her Juris Doctor degree.
Green has been a Benton County court member since then, and her career path is similar to her father’s. Leroy Froman practiced law in Searcy for many years and then served as a municipal judge in White County for 20 years until his retirement in 2000. Tragically, Greene died five months before Benton County voters elected him to the bench.
Before becoming a circuit judge, she worked as a civil attorney and prosecutor in Benton County for 14 years. She prosecuted cases in juvenile, district, and circuit courts, and at one point was charged with prosecuting all state crimes committed in Benton County.
In 2005, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Greene a 40 Under 40 winner. That same year, she served as a special judge on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Green said the service was one of her most outstanding accomplishments. Another was her successful 2005 murder and kidnapping prosecution of Albert Keith Smith, the longest and most expensive case in the county’s history.
Green said the prosecutor’s office was “full steam ahead” in the mid-2000s, and she enjoyed her trial work. Still, she sees running for the circuit judge job as a natural fit.
The transition from advocating one side to being a neutral jurist takes some getting used to.
“When I worked as a trial lawyer as a prosecutor, I prided myself on knowing the ins and outs of a case and not being surprised by any facts at trial,” she explained. “I’m very proud of it. As a circuit judge, I’m the person in the room who knows the least about the case. Me and the jurors. It’s a psychological adjustment to let the facts unfold as attorneys and witnesses present the facts in court. But of course, It’s the right process.”
Northwest Arkansas is blessed with an “elite” of prosecutors, defense attorneys and civil litigators, Green said.
“It made my job a lot easier,” she said. Preparation is critical to any lawyer’s success in court, she said.
“If you’re a trial lawyer, know how to successfully obtain evidence and keep appeal records,” she said.
Green is a member of the Cancer Challenge Board and is a past member of numerous civic organizations. She was also a commissioner for the statewide nonprofit organization Access to Justice Arkansas (2013-2015).
As an adjunct professor at John Brown University, she also teaches business law and ethics. Green enjoys traveling with his family. A trip to Washington, D.C., in 2011 gave him the chance to meet in the late Antonin Scalia’s room. Scalia was an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1986 until his death in 2016.
“We met him in his room and it was a huge highlight,” she said. “In the face of greatness is something I will never forget.”