Tweet of the week

“The Democrats are engaged in a campaign of delay and character assassination against Judge Kavanaugh. It’s time to vote this week.” — U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAr) on Sept. 24, the day after the New Yorker published a story in which Deborah Ramirez, a college classmate of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself without her consent during college. Kavanaugh denied the allegation. Christine Blasey Ford, who earlier said Kavanaugh groped her and attempted to remove her clothing during a high school party, was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Advertisement

Term limits ballot hopes look grim

A special master has concluded that petitions to put a term limits amendment on the November ballot were insufficient because 14,810 signatures shouldn’t be counted, mostly for discrepancies in complying with a law that applies to paid canvassers.

Advertisement

Circuit Judge Mark Hewett, appointed as special master to review facts in a case brought by corporate interests to remove the amendment from the ballot, noted a range of issues affected some of the petitions, including whether paid canvassers had begun gathering signatures before they had been properly registered. He also found discrepancies found in canvassers’ permanent addresses out of state and residences in Arkansas. Questionable signatures caused some pages of signatures to be wholly excluded because of problems with as many as 20 percent of signatures on a page. The Arkansas Supreme Court will receive Hewett’s findings and make a ruling.

The lawsuit was filed by Arkansans for Common Sense Term Limits, headed by Randy Zook, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. They oppose shorter term limits. The current term limits allow 16 years of service in a single house of the legislature (up to 22 in some rare cases in the Senate). The limits were extended from six years in the House and eight in the Senate by a vote in 2014 described to voters as “term limits.” A national term limits organization immediately began an effort to repeal the law change with this amendment, which capped service at 10 years.

Advertisement

Ethics charges filed against Supreme Court justices

The Arkansas Judicial and Disability Commission has announced the filing of formal charges of ethics violations against six members of the Arkansas Supreme Court for their handling of a case involving Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

A three-member investigative panel, acting on a review by Special Counsel Brent Standridge, found that the Supreme Court had improperly ruled on an extraordinary complaint against Griffen without giving him proper notice. A political firestorm followed Griffen’s actions and legislators began talking immediately about reprisals.

The complaint named Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justices Robin Wynne, Rhonda Wood, Josephine Hart, Karen Baker and Courtney Goodson.

Advertisement

Justice Shawn Womack was named in Griffen’s complaint. The absence of a reference to him in last week’s release means the complaint against him is still pending.

Kemp responded to the complaint that the Commission didn’t have jurisdiction over the Supreme Court and also contended Griffen had received proper notice.

The justices have been given notice of the charges and have 30 days to respond. They can request a hearing before the full Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. It would be a public trial of the charge that the court members acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in manners that violated various standards of behavior.

Charges had been filed earlier against Griffen on a complaint filed by the Supreme Court for his participation in a demonstration against the death penalty April 14, 2017, the day he ruled in a property rights case by a drug distributor seeking to reclaim drugs it said the state had obtained dishonestly to carry out executions. Griffen’s ruling in favor of the drug company had the effect of bringing executions to a halt. The Supreme Court stayed his order, removed him from the case and banned him from all death penalty-related cases. He sued over that action and also filed this ethics complaint.

Judges are presumed to be impartial, the complaint against the Supreme Court said. A personal opinion of a judge, even if strongly expressed, is not enough to overcome this presumption, the panel said.