Judicial Discipline begins review of Supreme Court ethics complaint | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Judicial Discipline begins review of Supreme Court ethics complaint

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 3:01 PM

Tippi McCullough, who filed a judicial ethics complaint over the Arkansas Supreme Court's handling of the same-sex marriage case, says regulators have confirmed the receipt of the complaint and begun a review.

She shared the letter she'd received from David Sachar, executive director of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.

You will receive an acknowledgement letter for each of the complaints that you filed. I expect that they are either in the mail or will be today or tomorrow.

The complaint will be addressed as directed by an Investigation Panel of the JDDC. The investigation is confidential. It will follow the usual time line for Panel meetings and response time (if requested by the Panel) for the justices. This office will contact you if they need additional information from you. As most of the information in your complaint is from news sources, pleadings or other public documents it is not likely that the Panel will subpoena you for a statement. I will let you know if they decide to do so and make the proper arrangements with you.

Thank you for your inquiry. Contact me if you need further information. I will try and answer any questions that I am permitted by law to address.

McCullough's complaint relies heavily on the recusals by Chief Justice Jim Hannah and Justice Paul Danielson from the offshoot of the same-sex marriage appeal in which four members of the court decreed a separate case of the question of exactly which justices should sit on the case. Should it be the seven who heard and completed the case Nov. 20, but failed to rule by Jan. 1. Or should it be the new court, with two new members, that began sitting Jan. 1. The critical question boils down to whether Special Justice Robert McCorkindale, appointed to sit for a recused justice by Gov. Mike Beebe, should stay on the case or whether new justice, Rhonda Wood should take over.

Hannah and Danielson wrote that the separate case was invented to create a delay in a decision and Danielson suggested the delay in justice for the case might amount to an ethics violation.

I wish somehow the review could be expanded to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's appointment of three special justices to hear the case for those who recused — Hannah, Danielson and Wood. One, Circuit Judge Shawn Womack, has a demonstrated historic animus to gay marriage, which is at the root of the original case. Another, Betty Dickey, was an avid campaign supporter of the person whose motion created this special case, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. This might not rise to a violation of the ethical canon that demands appearance of fairness and impartiality. But in layman's terms: It stinks.

It's unlikely that the ethics complaint will be resolved before the case — or cases — at issue. On the other hand, the marriage case has roots back to May 2014. The Supreme Court expedited it in October and is weeks away from deciding even who will hear the case and, then, whether new arguments will be required. The U.S. Supreme Court may settle the marriage question when it decides an appeal of several cases as earlier as June.

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