If the walls of the Arkansas Supreme Court could talk ….. You’d hear some juicy griping, I have a feeling.
Here’s the latest unusual developments in the legal case filed by five of the members of the Supreme Court — excepting Justices Robin Wynne and Courtney Goodson — claiming the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission had no authority to find them guilty of an ethics violation in handling the disqualification of Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen from all cases related to the death penalty.
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The five justices — Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justices Rhonda Wood, Karen Baker, Jo Hart
David Sachar, director of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, didn’t formally acknowledge being served with the action until Oct. 22. Brent Standridge, special counsel in the case that found an ethics violation by the court, acknowledged it on Oct. 23. When they filed responses on Oct. 29, the clerk of the Arkansas Supreme Court stamped them “tendered,” which is not the same as “filed.” An email from the clerk to parties said the filings were “rejected” by the “Arkansas judiciary.” No order exists in the record on this action or explanation By that date, the elected Arkansas Supreme Court was no longer on the case.
So the first decision for the seven special justices Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Oct. 25 to consider this case apparently will be whether the case still exists. Or do the real Supreme Court justices win by default for lack of timely response?
The Supreme Court presents an unflattering look in several ways here — its injudicious, political rush to punish Wendell Griffen without due process; appearing to hold themselves above ethics law; setting an unreasonable response time to their attempt to avoid the punishment, and, (unless the action can be blamed on a rogue clerk out at the Justice Building), using that early deadline to instruct the clerk to reject responses.
This case, the pending ethics case against Griffen and his federal lawsuit over the Supreme Court abridgment of his First Amendment rights all linger on. They employ a variety of special justices, special counsel and special attorneys (Attorney General Leslie Rutledge opted out of the latest).