UPDATE: Opinions are out. No decision today on the marriage case.
From earlier this morning:
The Arkansas Supreme Court customarily releases decisions on Thursday. It’s been three weeks since oral arguments in the state’s appeal of Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
There’s no time limit for making a decision after arguments. Most court observers tend to think the longer the decision takes, the more likely it is to reflect some division on the court. A split is widely expected.
State marriage bans have been struck down around the country in dozens of cases on U.S. constitutional grounds. The Arkansas case also raises a state constitutional issue, whether the ban runs afoul of the state’s own declaration of rights including equal protection under the law. A ruling on that state claim could end the case and make moot an appeal of the federal district court ruling striking down Arkansas’s ban.
We should know more by 9 a.m. or so today.
If there is no decision today, it almost certainly throws finality on the decision — allowing for a post-decision period to ask for a rehearing — after the first of the year and a change in personnel on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Custom is that a court that decides a case continues to hear a case even with change of membership. A special justice, Rob McCorkindale and a soon-to-be-retired Justice Donald Corbin are hearing this case. But other lawyers think if a four-member majority of the court that sits after the first of the year asserted a desire for a rehearing, that could override custom. A proclaimed conservative Republican, Rhonda Wood,, and Robin Wynne join the court in 2015.
I suspect a rancorous divide on this case. I note this morning another one of those cases pitting the female justices, Hart, Goodson and Baker, against Justices Jim Hannah, Paul Danielson and Donald Corbin. Justice Cliff Hoofman, who leaves at the end of the year, went with the women — ironically in reversing the conviction of a man who violated a domestic protection order. Hoofman is angling for yet another appointment from his pal Gov. Mike Beebe in early 2015, to the Court of Appeals seat being vacated by Rhonda Wood. Why Beebe would appoint Hoofman yet again — after a Court of Appeals, Highway Commission and Supreme Court appointments — is anybody’s guess. Hoofman has been a sore disappointment on the bench. He must know something about his old Senate colleague Beebe.