The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments Jan. 15 for the Arkansas Times’ appeal of a lower court decision upholding the state law requiring contractors doing business with the state to sign a pledge that they won’t engage in boycotts of Israel or else take a 20 percent cut in compensation.
The Times, supported by the ACLU, challenged the law on First Amendment grounds. Judge Brian Miller parted with two judges in other states with the same law in saying boycotts are not protected by the First Amendment. The Times had no interest in participating in a boycott; it objected to compelled speech against a boycott, or a financial penalty for refusing to make such an oath.
The three-judge panel will be Judges Jane Kelly, Michael Melloy and Jonathan Kobes. Kelly is an Obama appointee and Melloy was appointed by George H.W. Bush. Kobes is a recent Donald Trump appointee. Kobes was judged unqualified for the bench on account of lack of experience and extreme ideological views by the American Bar Association. His confirmation required a historic tie-breaking vote by the vice president. His legal career was spent primarily as an aide to Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican. Rounds cosponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which aims to fight boycotts that target Israel.