- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) - A Faulkner County circuit judge faced an ethics commission hearing Friday at which the panel was to consider whether to proceed with its look into allegations that he broke state campaign finance laws.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1w2lTO9 ) the Arkansas Ethics Commission met privately to discuss the case against Judge Michael Maggio. It did not take any public action afterward involving him.

Maggio initially entered an Appeals Court race this year, but dropped out. The state ethics panel and others are looking into campaign donations from political action committees traced back to a nursing home owner that had a case pending in Maggio’s court.

“Judge Maggio looks forward to participating in this preliminary hearing and having an opportunity to address the Commission members through his counsel,” his attorney, Lauren Hamilton, told the newspaper Thursday.

She said Maggio has already been cooperating with the pane.

Maggio, 53, faces investigations by the ethics panel and the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission because of contributions to his appeals court campaign from seven of eight political action committees financed almost entirely by nursing-home owner Michael Morton of Fort Smith.

Morton gave thousands of dollars to the PACs in checks donated July 8, three days before Maggio cut a Faulkner County jury’s $5.1 million judgment against one of Morton’s 32 nursing homes to $1 million.

Morton has said it was his understanding the PACs were for Maggio’s since-halted campaign and that the campaign wanted the money given through the PACs, rather than directly. Morton said he did nothing illegal.

Questions have also been raised about whether Maggio released confidential information online.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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