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Arkansas Secretary Of State Plans Appeal Of Judge's Ruling On Private Attorneys

The Arkansas Secretary of State plans to appeal a Pulaski County judge’s ruling over the office’s use of private lawyers in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

On Monday, Judge Tim Fox disqualified the private attorneys Secretary of State Mark Martin hired for $200 an hour to represent him in a lawsuit filed by plaintiff Matt Campbell, an attorney and political blogger who says Martin did not comply with his requests for certain records.

In the court decision, Judge Fox said state law requires Martin to rely on the Attorney General's Office for representation unless the attorney general cannot or will not provide it.  

Secretary of State Spokesman Alex Reed says the judge misapplied the law.

“Well, throughout the years there has been a history and a precedent of constitutional officers, state agencies, boards, and commissions using outside counsel so we chose to go the outside counsel route,” Reed said. 

However, in a message to KUAR, plaintiff Matt Campbell noted the legislature passed a measure in 1933 titled "An Act to Curtail the State's Legal Expenses and Regulate and Restrict the Hiring of Special Counsel."

"[The act] prohibits the hiring of outside counsel... [and has] been unchanged, aside from adding a couple restrictions, for 80 years," Campbell said. "Mark Martin is the first person to ever be found as having violated the statute prohibiting hiring of counsel." 

Secretary of State Spokesman Reed says Secretary Martin has no problems with representation from the AG’s office, but would prefer to use private lawyers in this matter.

Officials in the Secretary of State’s Office plan to file an appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court before the end of this week.