Jury's in on the judge -- UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 16, 2007

Jury's in on the judge -- UPDATE

Posted By on Fri, Mar 16, 2007 at 12:43 PM

The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today voted 5-3 to have a full hearing on whether to punish Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen for speaking publicly about such matters as racial discrimination and the Bush administration handling of Hurricane Katrina. (The vote is taken in private and only the tally, not the individual votes, is disclosed.)

At that hearing, a full case will be presented and Griffen will be allowed to mount a defense. The commission then can decide to 1) dismiss the case 2) issue a reprimand or censure 3) recommend a suspension with or without pay to the Arkansas Supreme Court or 4) recommend removal by the Arkansas Supreme Court. The hearing could take place late this summer.

The decision followed a closed session. That followed a probable cause hearing at which a complaint developed by commission director James Badami was presented to the commission. Griffen was not allowed to present a full case or call witnesses, though he did have an opportunity to say the allegations were unproved and, that even if they were true,  his speech was protected by he First Amendment. He wanted to call five witnesses, including Badami. He argued that, because the Commission could vote at the conclusion of the morning session to dismiss the complaint or issue a mild admonishment that he should have an opportunity to present a full case.

The question is whether Griffen, or any judge, is strictly bound by the state's code of ethics for judges not to comment on such matters, even if they are not issues in any way related to cases in his court. Griffen argues (and we agree) that U.S. Supreme Court precedent prohibits the state's abridging of the First Amendment rights of judges.

The commission has had a long vendetta against Griffen. He successfully overturned one prior admonishment on account of his public speech. The latest case includes the allegation that he violated ethics rules by writing a guest column for the Arkansas Times. No good deed goes unpunished.

Griffen's determination to protect his free speech rights -- and his vigorous exercise of them -- will undoubtedly be an issue in his bid for re-election next year. Juvenile Judge Rita Gruber is planning to challenge him.

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • More on how highways were used to wipe out "blight" of non-white neighborhoods

    Vox, a news website that concerns itself with energy and other issues, has a fine piece, including before and after images, on the history of the U.S. interstate system and why roads were built through the middle of cities (unless people of influence stopped them — see Manhattan, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.)
    • Mar 22, 2016
  • Hospitality, restaurant groups oppose bathroom bill

    Add the restaurant and hospitality association to those opposed to Sen. Linda Collins-Smith's bill to keep transgender people out of public restrooms that match their gender identity.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Judge anticipates punishment of lawyers in Fort Smith class action case

    Federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith issued a 32-page ruling yesterday indicating he contemplates punishment of 16 lawyers who moved a class action lawsuit against an insurance company out of his court to a state court in Polk County after a settlement had been worked out.
    • Apr 15, 2016

Most Shared

  • City ethics update; campaign limit was supposed to help the little guy

    Some more history on the Little Rock city ordinance that limits candidates for mayor and City Board to raising campaign funds to five months before the November 2018 election. It raises questions not only about Warwick Sabin's fund-raising tactics, but also Mayor Mark Stodola's carryover money.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation