Favorite

Judicial intimidation in Arkansas 

click to enlarge IN THE SPOTLIGHT, WHERE HE LIKES TO BE: Sen. Jason Rapert.
  • Brian Chilson
  • IN THE SPOTLIGHT, WHERE HE LIKES TO BE: Sen. Jason Rapert.

Sen. Jason Rapert had his big day last week. The Arkansas Legislative Council adopted his resolution criticizing Circuit Judge Chris Piazza for ruling that the Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage was a violation of constitutional equal protection and due process rights.

Rapert, with a loving Jerry Cox of the anti-gay Family Council looking on, made clear later this was about intimidating the Arkansas Supreme Court, where the appeal of Piazza's ruling is pending.

If the court defies Rapert and Cox, they will put a judicial recall law on the ballot. This would further blow judicial independence — already imperiled by politics — to smithereens.

The Supreme Court has always been subject to political pressures from the legislature, which controls pay, facilities and other niceties. The threat of removal makes it worse.

This is particularly true because of current court politics and personnel. Associate Justice Courtney Goodson will make a race for chief justice in 2016. She's been making inroads, after a rocky start, in building a coalition on the court with Justices Jo Hart and Karen Baker. Inside sources say it was Baker who rounded up three more votes from out-of-state conventioneering justices to override Justice Donald Corbin's initial decision not to stay Piazza's ruling during the appeal. Hundreds of couples who'd wanted to marry were denied the altar. Some fear the stay indicates the final posture of the court.

Goodson's influence is about more than her charm offensive. Her husband, John Goodson, a wealthy lawyer, spends heavily, along with allies, in judicial races. He raised money for Karen Baker. Trial lawyers with whom he's often associated helped pay off Hart's campaign debt. Goodson or his allies are believed by many lawyers to be behind the stealth money that attacked Tim Cullen in his narrow losing race for Supreme Court to Robin Wynne.

Goodson friends turned up, too, in the money reports of Rhonda Wood, who'll join the court in January. If the marriage equality case is still pending, Wood seems unlikely to vote for equal rights. She ran as a functional Republican (anti-gay, in other words) for the nonpartisan seat and has relied throughout her political career on Mike Huckabee as a robocalling supporter. Huckabee has equated supporters of marriage equality with Nazis.

Whatever happens in state court, Rapert and Cox can't pass a law giving recall power to Arkansas voters over federal judges, who'll also consider Arkansas's legal discrimination. (PS: There's not a chance in hell Pulaski voters would recall Chris Piazza even if the law allowed it.)

Black people should be thankful that Rapert and Cox weren't around in the 1950s and 1960s when voters passed racial discrimination laws and a constitutional segregation amendment that stayed on the books until 1992. The bigots claimed Biblical ground for their discrimination then, too.

It would be a sad continuation of Arkansas's poor record on human rights if the Arkansas Supreme Court became the first in the modern era to find that the U.S. Constitution doesn't give equal protection to gay people.

The court need not be intimidated. A ballot initiative for judicial recall couldn't reach the ballot until 2016. If approved — and there'd be opposition— a recall election would be at least a year away. You'd hope that by 2017, Arkansas would have decided to live and let gay people live, too.

But that depends, still, on a bit more judicial courage than many — including Jason Rapert and Jerry Cox — have come to expect.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The Clintons

    I wasn't particularly excited about the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill Clinton's election. Life goes on.
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • Memphian named as new Little Rock fire chief

    City Manager Bruce Moore has chosen Delphone Hubbard, a 22-year veteran of the Memphis Fire Department, to be Little Rock fire chief, succeeding Gregory Summers, who retired in August.
    • Nov 22, 2017
  • Little Rock dentist sues over his arrest

    KARK/Fox 16 reports that Dr. Jose Turcios, a Little Rock dentist acquitted of a charge that he'd molested a teen patient, has sued police officers who participated in his investigation and arrest.
    • Nov 22, 2017
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • The Clintons

    I wasn't particularly excited about the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill Clinton's election. Life goes on.
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • The smell of the swamp

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has been ravaged by the industry-wide decline in circulation and advertising, but it continues to invest in important state Capitol reporting.
    • Nov 16, 2017
  • More guns

    A gunman opened fire in a small Texas church during Sunday service, killing 26, wounding many more and ultimately shooting himself.
    • Nov 9, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

November

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30  

Most Viewed

  • A new Snyder?

    Last week, loyalists of former U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder celebrated a belated 70th birthday and fundraised to aid UA Little Rock's Center for Arkansas History and Culture's work to process his congressional papers from seven terms in Congress.
  • The Clintons

    I wasn't particularly excited about the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill Clinton's election. Life goes on.
  • Selling tax cuts

    Making tax law is always pretty simple, despite the arcane references to S corporations, pass-throughs, carried-interest deductions and the like, which define the ways that lots of rich people get their income.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The smell of the swamp

    • I did as you suggested and read several articles about "consultant" Solution Tree and their…

    • on November 19, 2017
  • Re: The line

    • Thanks Autumn for your article and viewpoint that I totally agree with because I have…

    • on November 19, 2017
 

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