Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has for the second time rejected the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment to clean up the legal confusion left by a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on “sovereign immunity,’ the constitutional principle that prevents lawsuits against the state.

Until recently, the Supreme Court has accepted legislative waivers of the prohibition in certain areas. But in a case over a minimum wage dispute, the Supreme Court changed precedent. It says no lawsuits means no lawsuits. Since then, judges have been dismissing lawsuits naming state agencies.

As a result, lawyers from a law firm including Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson and former Rep. Nate Steel, have proposed an amendment to allow the legislature to waive the protection in suits over nonmonetary issues. Claims for damages would still have to go to the Claims Commission.

In their first submission, Rutledge said use of the term “sovereign immunity” was a problem, because it might not be recognized by voters.


In another attempt, Rutledge said in an opinion released today that”ambiguities” still remained in the proposed waiver and in the section “purporting to authorize suits against the State seeking non-monetary relief.”