Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen intends to sue the seven members of the Arkansas Supreme Court for alleged violations of his First Amendment speech and religious expression rights for its discipline of him for participating in a prayer vigil on Good Friday.
One of his lawyers, Michael Laux, distributed a news release about a news conference Thursday on the planned federal complaint. It will be at the Baptist church Griffen pastors. The news release says:
The complaint also alleges violations of the Procedural Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Further, it alleges a breach of the Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and civil conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985.
Judge Griffen was severely and unfairly disciplined by the Arkansas Supreme Court after he attended a prayer vigil and gathering on Good Friday, April 14, 2017, at the Governor’s mansion. Earlier in the day, Judge Griffen granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) on behalf of McKesson, which alleged that the State of Arkansas had obtained drugs to be used in the upcoming inmate executions under false pretenses. As Judge Griffen has maintained all along, he followed the law in granting the TRO and no one–including the Arkansas SupremeCourt and the Judicial Disciplinary and Disability Commission–has explained how he did not follow the law, or what he should have done differently.
Griffen lay on a cot, bound, outside the Governor’s Mansion. It was widely interpreted as a representation of an Arkansas execution by lethal injection, though he has said since that he was depicting the Crucifixion. He demonstrated along with people protesting the death penalty outside the Governor’s Mansion. His participation set off a firestorm. The Supreme Court removed him from death penalty cases. A Judicial Discipline Commission investigation of him is underway along with his counter-complaint against the Supreme Court. A number of legislators talked of — and even took some procedural steps toward — impeachment of Griffen.
Another judge, Circuit Judge Alice Gray, subsequently ruled as Griffen had on the execution drugs. But the Supreme Court lifted her injunction, too, so that the drugs dishonestly obtained could be used in executions.
There’s irony in Griffen’s citation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This is a national law, but a state version also was passed by the legislature to protect those who want to discriminate against gay people by allowing religion as a defense. Is Judge Griffen experiencing discrimination in employment on account of his religious belief?