Stephanie Harris, Arkansas Supreme Court communications counselor, sent the following message to media today concerning the pending appeal of the lawsuit challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage:
Alas, I have no news for you. I do not anticipate that we’ll see a decision before the new term, but anything is possible. As I’ve explained before, I am not allowed to announce decisions before they are handed down, so I couldn’t tell you anyway. But I’m not optimistic.
If anything DOES happen, though, I’ll let you know immediately.
If nothing does happen before the end of the term, that means a change in court composition Jan. 1. Two justices are departing — Donald Corbin by retirement and Cliff Hoofman because his appointment to fill a vacancy expires. Corbin is to be succeeded by Robin Wynne, who’d take his vote in this pending case. Hoofman had recused from the marriage case. Robert McCorkindale of Harrison, a retired circuit judge, was appointed to hear the case as a special justice. Under past custom, he’ll continue to be a part of the seven-member court that decides the case, not Hoofman’s successor, Rhonda Wood.
This case has departed from custom already, however. The Supreme Court has a reputation of being an efficiency-minded group that keeps a “clean docket.” No decision this year means the appeal could pend two months or more after oral arguments without a decision.
Four members of the court presumably could change custom however they chose.