The Arkansas Supreme Court has expedited the appeal of Judge Mackie Pierce’s decision knocking Issue One, the lawsuit limitation amendment, off the ballot. Also, justice served notice of a connection to a law firm in the case.
The court decided against oral arguments (Justices Shawn Womack and Rhonda Wood would have granted this request) and it also denied a request for an immediate stay of Pierce’s order. The briefs are to be completed by Oct. 4.
Pierce ruled the amendment rolled up multiple proposals in a single ballot measure, contrary to the state Constitution. A group led by the leader of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is pushing the amendment to put caps on damages, caps on attorney fees and usurp court rule-making authority in favor of the legislature.
Also today, Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood filed a letter in the case that served notice that she has an immediate family member who works for the Friday Law Firm, which is representing the business intervenors. She said that relative is not to her knowledge counsel in this case and so she does not plan to recuse from the case. The rules of judicial conduct explicitly allow judges to participate in such cases, she said.
Chief Justice Dan Kemp has disqualified himself from the case. He hasn’t stated a reason but his daughter works for the Wright law firm, also representing intervenors. He has also disqualified from two lawsuits challenging the casino expansion amendment, where the same law firm is at work.
The Friday Firm is also counsel in cases challenging an initiated act to raise the minimum wage and a term limits amendment.