Attorney general rejects amendment for ethics, lawsuit damage limits | Arkansas Blog

Friday, July 14, 2017

Attorney general rejects amendment for ethics, lawsuit damage limits

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 4:30 PM

click to enlarge SCOTT TROTTER: Attorney general shoots down his constitutional amendment proposal.
  • SCOTT TROTTER: Attorney general shoots down his constitutional amendment proposal.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to impose stricter ethics standards in judicial raceS and counter a legislative amendment to severely limit damage lawsuits.

The proposal came from Scott Trotter, the Little Rock lawyer who authored a proposed constitutional amendment recently considered for support by the Arkansas Bar Association House of Delegates. That group fell narrowly short of the 75 percent vote required for official endorsement. That meant the Association itself couldn't throw its weight and membership behind the effort, but Trotter said at the time he intended to continue to pursue the idea and hoped to form an ad hoc committee to push the amendment to the ballot by a volunteer petition-gathering process.

But first the attorney general must approve the form of a ballot proposal. And Rutledge said what Trotter proposed had ambiguities and was misleading.  Trotter proposed to: 1) require disclosure of independent sources of money spent to influence judicial elections; 2) remove legislative authority over Ethics Commission rules; 3) require a two-thirds vote, rather than simple majority, for gubernatorial vetoes; 4) limit the legislature's ability to set court rules; 5) preserve the right to sue for damages without a legislative limit on damage awards or attorney fees. The legislature wants to strip the Supreme Court of rule-making authority and set severe limits on damage awards and attorney fees in such cases.

Rutledge said the popular name was misleading for Trotter to write that juries had the right to set damages now, because judges have some ability to alter jury awards. She said further it was misleading for Trotter to say his amendment would require election disclosures, because some disclosure is already required. And she said a political connotation could be found in writing that the amendment placed "limits" on the legislature.

Rutledge's opinion delved more deeply into her perception of shortcomings in virtually all of Trotter's specific proposals, so many that she said she was unable to suggest corrective language.

The odds of Rutledge approving an amendment for the ballot that contravenes the desires of the Republican majority legislature and limits its recently expanded powers in any way seem long from here.

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