Robert Reed, who’s tried repeatedly without success to get Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s approval of a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, sued Rutledge in circuit court today for violating the law and Arkansas Constitution in her blanket denial of 70 ballot initiative requests.
As has been argued in other lawsuits, the complaint says the law commands Rutledge to provide an acceptable ballot title if she doesn’t like the form submitted. It also says her claim of absolute discretion violates the Arkansas Constitution and the law delegating that discretion to her is a violation of the separation of powers in the state Constitution. Reed’s proposal has been rejected for ambiguities in Rutledge’s opinion. He notes his proposal is identical to one approved for the ballot when Dustin McDaniel was attorney general.
The suit, which landed in Judge Chip Welch’s court, mirrors a new lawsuit also filed by Alex Gray Friday on behalf of Don Tilton, leading an effort to get a casino gambling proposal on the ballot. An earlier lawsuit including that group was removed to federal court last week by Rutledge under the spurious claim that it had a federal issue. The new lawsuits make no mention of any federal claims and could be ripe for state action quicker than federal Judge Kristine Baker could decide whether Rutledge had a legitimate reason to take the case to federal court. Rutledge moved to change venue about an hour before her scheduled testimony in Judge Wendell Griffen’s court. Sponsors of several ballot initiatives believe Rutledge is just trying to run out the clock and effectively pocket veto ballot initiatives of which she disapproves. Topics range from redistricting to marijuana to casinos to a clarification of a momentous sovereign immunity ruling that seemingly prevents lawsuits against the state, even on constitutional issues.
The lawsuits propose a variety of remedies, including an order that prevents Rutledge from blanket rejections of proposals and ordering her within three days to approve pending proposals or propose edited language for them.
If proposals aren’t advertised by June 6, petitions can’t be circulated to put them on the ballot. Here’s Reed’s suit.