Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has joined the opposition to Issue One, a proposed amendment aimed at discouraging lawsuits for the likes of medical malpractice and nursing home neglect. But the Advocates focus on another part of the sweeping amendment.
If Issue 1 stays on the ballot and is approved by voters, it would give the Arkansas Legislature, rather than the Arkansas courts, full authority to make all state court rules regarding pleadings and practices and rules of evidence in all types of cases, not just personal injury cases. One possible rule change under Issue 1 would be to require the losing party in court to pay the winning party’s attorney’s fees in a lawsuit. Such a rule would have the effect of closing our courts to future advocacy efforts to improve public policy for our most vulnerable children and families. Even a parent or advocacy group with a legitimate claim that a child’s (or a group of children’s) constitutional rights are being violated would be afraid to file a lawsuit or seek relief in Arkansas courts due to the possibility of losing the case and having to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees.
That is, of course, the idea. Corporations want as few lawsuits as possible and should any slip through the amendment’s net, the lobby-controlled legislature will fix it. For now, a circuit judge has ruled the measure