U.S. District Judge James Moody
ruled today that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s lawsuit against individual justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court can proceed, the AP reports. Moody dismissed the state Supreme Court as a whole from the suit over its order last year keeping Griffen from hearing cases involving the death penalty.

Griffen filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the court in October. It moved quickly to remove him April 17 and institute disciplinary proceedings against him because he participated April 14 in a Good Friday demonstration outside the governor’s mansion that included a protest of capital punishment. Griffen lay bound on a cot. He said he was depicting the crucifixion. Others saw it as symbolic of an inmate prepared for lethal injection. His demonstration came after he’d ruled earlier in the day in favor of a drug marketer that claimed the state had used dishonest means to obtain its drugs for use in executions. It wanted the drugs back. It was a property rights case, but Griffen’s ruling had the effect of delaying executions. After he was removed and a new judge appointed, that judge made the same conclusion on the same facts.


Justices on the court have racked up significant legal bills paying private lawyers to defend them, we reported in February.