Attorneys for Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen have filed a motion seeking to dismiss judicial ethics charges he faces and, in the process, has provided information they’ve gathered about Supreme Court justices actions in his case.
Griffen had earlier asked for a public trial of the finding for probable cause that he ran afoul of ethical conduct rules by participating in a death penalty demonstration outside the Governor’s Mansion on the same day he’d rule in favor of pharmaceutical companies trying to recover from the state execution drugs dishonestly obtained by prison officials. The hearing is set May 21.
In their motion, Griffen’s attorneys cite testimony from David Sachar, director of the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, to the effect that court precedent upholds the right of judge’s to free speech (demonstrating against the death penalty) and that he had decided the case on execution drugs properly.
As early as the evening of Good Friday, a member of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Justice Womack, contacted Director Sachar concerning Judge Griffen’s Good Friday prayer vigil. Justice Rhonda Wood and Chief Justice John Kemp contacted Director Sachar days later to discuss impeachment.
The impeachment cry also was taken up by members of the legislature, notably Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado). Griffen restrained use of ill-gotten chemicals on Good Friday. By Monday, the Supreme Court had vacated Griffen’s restraining order and removed him from death penalty cases. The case subsequently was decided identically by another Little Rock judge, Alice Gray. That is, the drug companies should get back drugs they had not intended for use in executions. It was a property rights case, not a death penalty case, and thus Griffen’s speech on the subject of the death penalty should not be ground for disqualification.
Griffen’s lawyers argue that the law is on his side, but also that the actions of the Supreme Court, acting extrajudicially, illustrate efforts to silence him and the unfairness of the proceeding. Griffen’s own complaint about unethical conduct of members of the Arkansas Supreme Court, including ex parte conversations about his case, was dismissed by a panel that decided they’d acted in their official capacity. The decision should be no different for Griffen, he argues.
Griffen’s news release is here.
Here’s his argument for dismissal of the charge.
The motion for summary judgment includes the transcript of Sachar’s deposition in which he discusses contacts from the Supreme Court. Noted: the transcript describes communications between justices and Sachar including with Wood about removal of Griffen from the case but not about “impeachment” specifically.