The Associated Press reports that Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has dismissed Monsanto chemical’s lawsuit challenging a state Plant Board restriction on the use of dicamba herbicide because of the recent state Supreme Court ruling that seems to say absolutely the state may not be made a defendant in its courts.
The Plant Board voted to ban
Piazza said he didn’t see how the suit could go forward under the decision, rewriting decades of precedent, that said the legislature could not waive a constitutional prohibition against lawsuits against the state.
The decision has lawyers scratching their heads about its meaning. For one thing, does the so-called “sovereign immunity” provision override other constitutional protections in the state Constitution?
In another case, the state seems to be dodging the question of whether a taxpayer may challenge a state Finance and Administration finding on tax liability. The pending decision, in that case, could have application in appeals of other agency decisions, such as the dicamba case. The court has also, since its precedent-setting ruling, declined to accept sovereign immunity as an argument against an award of legal costs in the case of illegal spending of public money on General Improvement Fund projects. That is at least one small indication that the immunity ruling may not be absolute. But, for now, it protects the dicamba rule
Monsanto could make a claim for damages to the state Claims Commission for inability to sell its chemical for use during the banned months. It could attempt to craft a claim in federal court as well.
AP quoted Piazza today:
“It’s obvious that Arkansas is going to have to come up with a constitutional amendment to change this to make it where we can operate again as a court should,” Piazza said. “I really think the (state Supreme Court case) prevents us from hearing this case at this moment.”
An effort is underway to get an amendment on the ballot, but Attorney General Leslie Rutledge rejected the first proposed ballot title to amend the sovereign immunity provision saying voters wouldn’t understand that phrase.