Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has provided the formal response he’s filed to notice that the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission is investigating his conduct on a referral from the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The Court asked for the investigation after reversing an order Griffen issued in a complaint by drug distributor McKesson that the state Correction Department had been dishonest in obtaining a drug McKesson sold for use in executions, a use McKesson and the maker, Pfizer, attempt to prevent. After making that ruling, Griffen participated in a demonstration at the death penalty in front of the Governor’s Mansion. He was strapped to a cot. He appeared to most to be depicting an inmate strapped down for execution, but said later that he was portraying, on Good Friday, the crucifixion of Christ.
Judicial investigations typically are confidential until the agency decides there’s probable cause for discipline. Then, if a judge objects, the subsequent hearing by the Commission can be held in public. Griffen said he’d waived confidentiality in his investigation. He has, in turn, complained about the ethical conduct of the Supreme Court in reversing him and referring him for discipline without a hearing and the Arkansas attorney general’s office in its effort to remove him from the case and foregoing its normal representation of judges.
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His three-page response makes many of the points he made before, particularly in posts on his blog.
He said the McKesson case was assigned to him after he’d attended a death penalty rally at the Capitol in which he took no role beyond attendance. He said he acted in the case on a “verified complaint” about misuse of the plaintiff’s property and ruled, following law, that a restraining order was called to preserve the disputed property until a full evidentiary hearing. This, he didn’t say, had the effect of preventing executions from going forward because it was the only supply of one of three drugs to be used.
He said the event later at the Mansion was a Holy Week prayer vigil. He lay on the cot in solidarity with Jesus, he said. He said that did not constitute a judicial function and nothing he said or did there related to the McKesson case. Similarly, he said nothing he’d written on his blog about the death penalty involved the McKesson case.
“Thus, your complaint — and its underlying referral by the Arkansas Supreme Court — is a naked attempt to intimidte and punish me for exercising my rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of religious expression and right to peaceful assembly that are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
He also contended he’d violated no law or element of the judicial code of conduct.
He said the case should be dismissed, rather than “waste your time, the resources of your office and mine.” He urged the office to release all material gathered in the case to the public and said he’d be represented by three lawyers in the case — Austin Porter Jr. and Mike Laux of Little Rock and Michael Matthews of Tampa.