Friday, June 16, 2017

UPDATE: Bar fails to endorse alternative damage lawsuit amendment

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 4:08 PM

TWEET-READY: Chief Justice Kemp.
  • TWEET-READY: Chief Justice Kemp.
UPDATE: The Arkansas Bar Association House of Delegates this afternoon failed to endorse a proposal to counter a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment to limit damage lawsuits.

Needing a 75 percent vote, the House of Delegates gave it 72 percent.

From earlier today:

A Tweet from the Arkansas Bar Association convention in Hot Springs says Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp has promised a new social media effort by the court.

Chief Justice Kemp plans to roll out a social media campaign...time to embrace twitter. Brings judicial work to all Arkansans. 
The proof is in the pudding. Regurgitation of information already available on the web, but no new responsiveness, frankly doesn't mean much.

One Supreme Court justice, Rhonda Wood, has a Twitter account already, but blocks disagreeable sorts from following it.

A couple of other Supreme Court justices sparked some recent inquiries stonewalled by the court — an extended absence for illness of Justice Karen Baker and the report that new Justice Shawn Womack was saving money by sleeping in chambers. Further questions remain about control of the court website, particularly the absence of some interviews with retired Supreme Court justices. Is this a Karen Baker decision prompted by her unhappiness over publication of retired Justice Donald Corbin's interview that exposed machinations in the same-sex marriage case.

And what about the recent death cases? Just where did the Supreme Court information, absent briefs or court hearings, that led to its speedy decisions related to Wendell Griffen, execution drugs and more. An ongoing ethics complaint might open up that can of worms a bit.

My point: Transparency is good. Accessibility is good. Adapting to changing technology is good. But if you're only putting the same old pettiness and secrecy in a new wrapper, it's not much of a gift.

Later today: The Bar House of Delegates votes this afternoon on a constitutional amendment presented to stymie the legislatively-referred amendment to essentially make serious damage lawsuits a thing of the past by limiting damage awards and attorney fees and turning rule-making authority over to the legislature. The chamber of commerce has been pressuring its hired guns to vote "right" on the alternate. If the bar moves ahead — and a 75 percent approval vote is required today — it would require a difficult petition campaign.

The Bar proposal would have kept rule-making authority at the Supreme Court and prevented the cap on damages and attorney fees the legislature has proposed. It also would have included a requirement for disclosure of money spent to elect judges. That dark money can now be kept secret if spent independently.

Without bar backing, it is just about impossible to put an amendment on the ballot. The bar had hoped to draw on members to get the job done and avoid some of the punitive measures the legislature has placed on groups that hire paid canvassers. This likely means the battle will be over the legislature's amendment, with lawyers providing money to attempt to defeat it. "Greedy lawyers" will be the theme of the legislative amendment, most likely.

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