Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today the state’s intention to appeal a federal district court ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. He used the occasion to complain about the Arkansas Supreme Court’s tardiness in ruling on a state case.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today that he is filing a notice of appeal with the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis regarding U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s decision in the federal challenge of Amendment 83.
“I had hoped that the Arkansas Supreme Court would rule in Wright v. Smith prior to the deadline to file notice of appeal in the federal case. Had they done so, their guidance would have been helpful,” McDaniel said. “Because it appears that the Arkansas Supreme Court will not announce its decision before December 26, which is the deadline to submit a notice of appeal in the federal case, I believe it is necessary to file this notice, in keeping with my obligation to oppose all challenges to our State Constitution.”
The cases raise the same issues but are unrelated. The Arkansas Supreme Court has been deliberating on the appeal of Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling striking down the ban for more than a month. The reasons for the delay have become subject to increasing speculation. Some day, perhaps more will be known. The Supreme Court, which has done a number of things in the last year that reflect division and curious departures from custom, isn’t covering itself with glory in the handling of this case.
McDaniel could have demonstrated some heretofore lacking courage and let this appeal die. But he has deferred to incoming Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who vows to fight for discrimination against gays in marriage until the very end.
There are still a few hours left in the state work day today. It’s unclear whether McDaniel is guessing, or has solid information, that there will be no ruling today. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are state holidays. Few state employees are expected to be working on Dec. 26, either. UPDATE: A reader informs me that the official state holiday schedule was expanded by decree of lame-duck Gov. Beebe, who made Friday a holiday, too. Just as well. Few were going to be at their desks, using leave to get a five-day weekend.
Also today in the federal case, McDaniel’s office filed a motion opposing attorney Cheryl Maples request for $15,900 in attorney fees and $511 in costs for her work on the federal case. The case was filed originally by Jack Wagoner on behalf of several plaintiffs. Maples was added as an attorneya year later. Maples has also asked for $256,000 as fees in the state cause and Wagoner, who assisted her in that litigation, has asked for about $95,000.
McDaniel said Maples’ request in the federal case should be denied because it hadn’t been adequately documented and was based on “redundant and unnecessary” work. It faulted her for not being lead attorney, joining the case late and billing large amounts for travel time, three hours for reviewing text messages and 16 hours for unspecified “research and review.” It says prep time for court arguments were excessive because they were duplicative of arguments in the Supreme Court case.
Wagoner, who has not made a fee claim in the case, said he’d be filing in court today a response saying he does not join in her request and that “if the Court is inclined to permit late applications for fees that an order be entered allowing fee applications within 30 days of the finalization of any appeal.”