The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today issued its formal order dismissing an ethics case against Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen for an inability to complete the case in the time set out in rules.
By the Commission’s figuring, they had until June 30 to try a case that arose April 2017. There’s an 18-month time limit, but the Commission has said some requests for delays by Griffen extended it. A special counsel from Mississippi’s job complications left no options but dismissal.
The Commission recounts the staff recusals and other complications that extended this case and took pains to note that dismissal is “not intended” as a decision on the merits of the allegations against Griffen. He took part in a death penalty demonstration on a day he decided a case related to death penalty drugs. An investigative panel said this created an ill appearance, sufficient for sanction. Griffen said he wasn’t influenced by his beliefs in the decision and his ability to speak in that context was protected by the First Amendment on speech and religious grounds.
The Commission said a series of unprecedented events dictated the outcome. It suggested a review of rules and possible changes to avoid similar procedural problems in the future.
Ernest Dumas this week offered a sweeping interpretation of the problems with this case, beginning with apparent ex parte communications by partisan and politically-influenced members of the Arkansas Supreme Court.