THAT WAS THEN: Since the election is over and ads are no longer being aired, the Court of Appeals today dismissed an appeal of a decision in a lawsuit over attack advertising that targeted Justice Courtney Goodson.

Saying the issue was moot, the Arkansas Court of Appeals today dismissed a TV station’s appeal of a court decision enjoining the airing of advertising critical of Associate Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

The election is over and ads are no longer being run. The appeal of a lower court ruling by the parent company of KTHV in Little Rock sought a decision because of the possibility the issue could arise again. The Court of Appeals said, “Arkansas appellate courts have consistently held that they will not review issues that are moot because to do so would be to render an advisory opinion. “


There are exceptions, including the potential for repetition and “substantial public interest.” But the court said in an opinion by Judge Robert Gladwin:

With respect to the first exception, although the issue of allegedly defamatory campaign ads is capable of repetition in future elections, this case fails as to the second prong of the exception in that the issue is not doomed to evade review if not addressed herein. Goodson’s request for a PI pertained solely to the JCN Campaign Ad. Any future allegations of defamatory campaign advertisements will deal with distinctively unique candidates, facts, and then-governing campaign rules and regulations that will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. To hold otherwise would constitute a prohibited advisory opinion.

As to the second exception, which also has two prongs—(1) that there be a substantial public interest in the issues being considered and (2) that addressing such issues, despite their being otherwise moot, would prevent litigation—we hold that only the first prong has been met in this case. We acknowledge an unquestionable substantial public interest in the First Amendment and prohibiting the prior restraint of expression; however, addressing this issue will not prevent future litigation. Because the election has already occurred, neither party to this case stands to gain relief based on the outcome of this appeal, and any holding with respect to similar future claims regarding political campaign-ad content would be both speculative and advisory in nature, we decline to address the merits of TEGNA’s arguments. Accordingly, we dismiss.

The case arose from ads run by the Judicial Crisis Network, raising issues about gifts Goodson had received and pay raises that had been sought for the Supreme Court. She filed suit to stop the ads in both Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas. In this case, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza granted her request for an injunction. In the separate case in Northwestr Arkansas, Judge Mackie Pierce denied it, upholding the argument that it was a First Amendment restriction. The Crisis Network argued that the ads were factual. Goodson said they became defamatory by omitting context, including her disqualification from cases involving people with whom she’d had associations and her vote (not publicly recorded) against seeking a pay increase.


The suits arose over advertising in the May judicial election. The election left Goodson in a runoff with David Sterling. A different special interest lobby, the Republican State Leadership Committee, resumed attack advertising and shortly before the general election, Goodson sued again. She defeated Sterling easily. The new lawsuit was transferred to federal court, but Goodson voluntarily dismissed it after her victory.