Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen Brian Chilson

Brian Chilson

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who in late June petitioned the state Supreme Court to restore his ability to hear cases involving the death penalty, has now filed a motion in that case asking all of the Supreme Court justices to disqualify themselves so that Governor Hutchinson can appoint a full slate of special justices.

The Supreme Court removed Griffen from such cases in April 2017 after he participated in a vigil outside the Governor’s Mansion the same day he decided a property case involving a drug distributor seeking to get back from Arkansas drugs the state planned to use in an execution. The high court also referred Griffen to a judicial discipline panel for ethics violations. That case was dropped in June because it wasn’t decided within the 18 months required by ethics rules.

Here’s the motion.

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Here’s how attorney Mike Laux, who is representing Griffen in the matter, describes the motion in a press release:

Judge Griffen’s motion to disqualify is based on the personal involvement of the Justices, evidenced primarily by a series of informal communications made by them over the course of Easter Weekend 2017 and directed to JDDC Director David Sachar. These communications involved Judge Griffen’s judicial and extra-judicial activities of Good Friday. There were presumably conversations among the Justices as well Within hours, without a hearing, the Justices swiftly barred Judge Griffen from capital cases and personally referred him to the JDDC for discipline.

 

Judge Griffen’s motion to disqualify cites Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.4 (External Influences On Judicial Conduct) and Rule 2.11 (Disqualification) as separate bases for the Justices to recuse and appoint an independent tribunal to rule. There is no case for discipline because the dismissal of Judge Griffen’s ethics case eliminates any basis to punish him. However, because it was the Justices who conceived, recommended and referred the ethics case against him, they are extraordinarily conflicted in terms of issuing a formal determination that Judge Griffen should have his full powers restored.