Public Defender in Runoff for Circuit Court Judge Division VI

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Deputy Public Defender Rita Howard Watkins is a candidate in the runoff race for the nonpartisan position of Sebastian County Circuit Court Judge, Division VI.

Since 2005, Watkins has served as Deputy Public Defender for the 12th Judicial District in Sebastian County. During her tenure, she has provided counsel to indigent clients in an effort to determine the best legal defense in criminal cases.

She is responsible for all phases of representation from independent
investigation to defense at trial. Watkins sits on the Sebastian County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, the Sebastian County Juvenile Justice Prevention Coalition and is a member of the Arkansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Watkins is also a past member of the Arkansas and Sebastian County Bar Associations. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Sebastian County Law Library and has been an Adjunct Professor in the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith paralegal studies program.

Watkins holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Oregon State University. She was raised in Fort Smith and attended Northside High School. She volunteers throughout the community serving as Vice President of the Phillis Wheatley Women’s Club of Fort Smith, past Vice President-Community Impact for the Junior League of Fort Smith and past Secretary for the Girls, Inc. Board of Directors. Watkins has also served as a Sebastian County Election Commissioner, volunteer basketball coach and Eta Omicron Adviser for the Delta Gamma Fraternity.

“When I chose to study law, my intent was in ensure that all people involved in the legal system be treated fair, just and with the utmost respect regardless of their race, ethnicity, and socio-economic background,” said Watkins. “As Circuit Judge, I’ll make sure that I work every day to make that a reality. My experience in all areas of the law makes me the well-rounded, experienced attorney I am today. And I look forward to continuing to serve the community, bringing respect, integrity, transparency and accountability to the bench.”

Watkins resides in Fort Smith with her husband Jason and daughter Jasmon, and is a member of St. James Missionary Baptist Church.


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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; Editor - Resident Press. 20+ years experience in the news.

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