Smart Talk Oct. 6 

Nature calls The state Game and Fish Commission is expected to start construction of a nature center in Little Rock’s River Market District at the beginning of 2006. “It is our understanding that the nature center will start construction after the first of the year,” said Bryan Day, Little Rock’s interim assistant city manager. The nature center will be built on the banks of the Arkansas River behind the Museum of Discovery, between the Riverfest Amphitheatre and Interstate 30. The city intends to prepare the site for development before 2005 ends. This includes removing the parking lot and utilities that currently occupy the space. Small is better Supporters of small schools are intensifying their efforts to protect these schools from forced consolidation. A statewide organization called Advocates for Community and Rural Education (ACRE) has been formed. Thirteen chapters are in existence and 20 more are in the process of being established, according to ACRE, which also says that it has a paid organizer who works mostly with predominantly black school districts in East Arkansas. Many of the small districts in other parts of the state are all-white. The group’s board of directors consists of four whites and three blacks. Lavina Grandon is the executive director of ACRE. Grandon, a teacher at Valley Springs (Boone County), was the principal organizer of Save Our Schools, an anti-consolidation group that helped defeat Gov. Mike Huckabee’s consolidation legislation in 2003. A less demanding consolidation bill was enacted, but pressure for more consolidation continues, Grandon said. She said that ACRE’s paid organizer, who works part-time, is now paid by the Rural School and Community Trust, a national organization. ACRE has applied for grants and hopes eventually to pay the organizer itself, Grandon said. Expert protection Doctors do not have to give expert testimony against themselves in malpractice cases, the state Supreme Court ruled Sept. 29. Karen Mauldin Whorton lost a malpractice suit against Dr. Jerry Dixon and Saline Memorial Hospital after her lymph node surgery resulted in a severed nerve. On appeal, she challenged the constitutionality of the state Medical Malpractice Act’s provision that “No medical care provider shall be required to give expert opinion testimony against himself or herself as to any of the matters set forth in [the statute] at a trial,” saying it violated her right to a fair trial. The Supreme Court, however, noted that if a plaintiff’s claim is legitimate, he should be able to find an expert to testify on that point, and that the law did not prevent the plaintiff from requiring the defendant to testify on factual issues. Whorton did bring an expert witness, Dr. Andy Heiskell, who testified Dixon’s treatment failed the standard of care. Dixon’s expert witness, Dr. Charles Mabry, refuted Heiskell’s testimony. The court also noted that had Dixon given expert testimony favorable to himself, the plaintiff would have been able to cross-examine him.

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