Supreme Court bills show higher charges for out-of-state lawyers in Griffen case | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Supreme Court bills show higher charges for out-of-state lawyers in Griffen case

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 4:59 PM

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Stacey Pectol, clerk of the Arkansas Supreme Court, responded today to my request for billing information for counsel representing the Supreme Court in the lawsuit by Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen over his removal from all death-penalty-related cases, which he contends is a violation of his constitutional rights.

I reported earlier that Chief Justice Dan Kemp had written the Joint Budget Committee to say the court had spent up a $25,000 budget allotment for professional services and had $135,000 in additional bills outstanding. He asked, too, for $250,000 in spending authority for each of two years. He said it might not be needed.

The summary above shows the total charges and amounts paid so far. It indicates Justice Rhonda Wood paid an initial bill of $8,832.93 by Colorado lawyers herself. I've asked her if she intends to pay future charges and if she intends to be reimbursed for those first charges.

To date the Arkansas lawyers look like bargains, though the records supplied by Pectol redacted hourly rates and the specific charges that contributed to the totals.

To recap the billing, in order:

* Cooper and Kirk, a Washington law firm, represents Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson. Its bills so far: $86.610.

* Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck, a Denver law firm, represents Justice Rhonda Wood: Its bill so far: $39,862.26.

* The Barber Law Firm
of Little Rock represents Justice Josephine Hart. Its bills:  $1,150. Hart also was represented by Murphy, Thompson, Skinner, Arnold and Castleberry of Batesville, which charged $19,176.65 at rates of $250 an hour.

* The Center for Constitutional Litigation, based in New York, represents the court as a whole and Justices Kemp, Robin Wynne and Shawn Womack. Its billings so far: $11,798.21

* Tim Dudley, a Little Rock lawyer, represents Justice Karen Baker. His billing so far: $2,140.

Griffen seeks no monetary damages, only restoration of full abilities as a judge. His attorney, Michael Laux, says there'd have been no expense if the Supreme Court hadn't acted improperly. The case is in federal court. Griffen and the justices also face dueling ethics complaints before the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which has hired special counsel to investigate the cases on account of recusal of paid staff.

I don't have a figure for added costs in the judicial discipline action, but I'm inquiring.

UPDATE: the special counsels are serving pro bono though they might incur some expenses. One is from out of state.

UPDATE II: Justice Wood's response to my question about bills incurred by her lawyers:

I believe the state is responsible for the legal fees for suits against elected officials sued in their official capacity.

There were not sufficient funds and the invoice was due, so I paid it.

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