Arkansas Courts

Jennifer Merritt
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal judge blocked three new abortion restrictions from taking effect Wednesday in  Arkansas , including a measure that opponents say would likely force the state's only surgical abortion clinic to close.

Jennifer Merritt
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An official with Arkansas's only surgical abortion clinic said Monday that the facility could close within a month if a federal judge doesn't block a new law restricting who can perform abortions in the state.

Rita Sklar ACLU American Civil Liberties Union
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas is retiring after nearly three decades heading the group.

The ACLU of Arkansas on Monday announced the retirement of Rita Sklar, who has served as the organization's executive director since 1992. The group said Holly Dickson, its legal director, will serve as interim director and a national search will be announced soon.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A former Arkansas lawmaker who is the governor's nephew has admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes to help a health nonprofit as part of a plea deal in a sprawling federal corruption investigation.

Linda Collins-Smith
Arkansas Legislature

A new judge has been named to handle the case surrounding the killing of a former Arkansas lawmaker who was found dead outside her home.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp on Thursday named retired Circuit Judge David Goodson to preside over the case involving the killing of former Sen. Linda Collins. Judge Harold Erwin had been presiding over the case and the order said he requested the reassignment but doesn't say why.

Abortion rights supporters are challenging three new Arkansas restrictions on the procedure, including one that bans abortions 18 weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday and are asking a judge to block the restrictions before they take effect July 24.

Arkansas currently bans abortion 20 weeks into a woman's pregnancy. The restrictions challenged are among several approved by the majority-Republican Legislature this year.

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson appeared in federal court Tuesday to change his pleas on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion. He had originally faced 25 counts stemming from three separate cases in Arkansas and Missouri. Before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, Hutchinson changed his pleas in two of those cases to guilty.

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson arriving in court Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing in his corruption case.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker nearly nine months after he was indicted by a federal grand jury in a wide-ranging public corruption scheme. 

The hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas will be held at the Richard Sheppard Arnold U.S. Courthouse at noon in downtown Little Rock.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Talk Business & Politics

A federal judge has halted his order blocking Arkansas from enforcing a law that prevents candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. on Wednesday granted Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to stay his preliminary injunction against the law while Rutledge appeals his decision. Moody issued the preliminary injunction blocking the law on Monday.

Rebecca Becky Lynn O'Donnell being escorted into the Randolph County Courthouse Monday where she was formally charged with capital murder in the death of former Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins.
KAIT-TV / Twitter

An Arkansas woman has been charged with capital murder in the killing of a former state senator whose body was found outside her own home.

A state judge also found probable cause Monday to charge 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell with abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence, Jonesboro television station KAIT reported . The judge did not set bond for O'Donnell, who was arrested Friday in former Sen. Linda Collins' death.

Authorities haven't said how Collins was killed.

Civil rights attorneys Mike Laux (left) and Benjamin Crump at a press conference in December regarding the Little Rock Police Department's use of no-knock raids.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A civil rights attorney representing several people who claimed they were unfairly targeted by Little Rock police with no-knock raids says he’s encouraged by the department’s effort to reform its policy. On Wednesday, Police Chief Keith Humphrey unveiled a new threat assessment system that will be used to determine when carrying out a search warrant rises to the level of a no-knock raid.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death penalty demonstration in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in April 2017.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An ethics complaint has been dismissed against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen for taking part in a death penalty demonstration in April 2017 on the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug. Now Griffen is demanding he be given back the power to consider death penalty cases.

Election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit alleges the voting system for some Arkansas judges violates black residents' rights by diluting the strength of the vote.

Lawyers for the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit Tuesday. It says that because the state's seven Supreme Court judges are elected statewide instead of by district, the white voting bloc overpowers the votes of black Arkansas residents.

Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A disciplinary panel says Arkansas Supreme Court justices don't have to testify in an ethics hearing over a judge's participation in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug.

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission issued an order Friday granting justices' request to block their testimony in next week's hearing against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

A rendering of an expanded I-30 corridor in downtown Little Rock. 30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

Several neighborhood groups and residents are asking a federal judge to halt a $1 billion plan to widen a highway connecting downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The lawsuit filed Monday challenges the "30 Crossing" plan to widen and reconstruct roughly 7 miles of Interstates 30 and 40 in the cities' downtowns.

David Monteith / KUAR News

The Little Rock Police Department will face continued scrutiny of its use of deadly force with the filing of a federal civil lawsuit Monday. The family James Hartsfield claims the officer used excessive force and that the city is also responsible for failing to properly train its officers.  

Danny Lee at an arraignment hearing on Oct. 31, 1997 for the murders of members of a Russellville family. A federal judge Tuesday denied a request for a new trial.
The Russellville Courier

A federal judge in Little Rock has again denied an Oklahoma man's request for a new trial following his 1999 federal murder conviction and death sentence in Arkansas.

The request by Danny Lee to overturn his conviction in the deaths of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife and her 8-year-old daughter, and stealing guns and cash in a plot to establish a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest was rejected Tuesday.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

It’s now up to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to decide whether Arkansas’s lethal injection protocol inflicts unconstitutional pain and suffering on condemned inmates. For eight days she has heard arguments and testimony in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who allege the sedative midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used, is not effective at keeping inmates unconscious when subsequent drugs shut down the body.

Wendy Kelley
Arkansas Public Media

A federal trial regarding Arkansas’s use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections is wrapping up. On Wednesday, just over a week since the trial began, attorneys for the state called their final witness. Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley is named along with Gov. Asa Hutchinson as a defendant in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who claim the drug isn’t enough to keep inmates unconscious during the process.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys defending the state in a lawsuit by Arkansas death row inmates challenging the use of a drug in lethal injections called a series of officials to the stand Tuesday who witnessed executions carried out two years ago. They included the warden who organized the executions, a former prosecutor and two state senators, with all testifying that the inmates did not seem to experience any pain.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys for the state began calling witnesses Monday in a lawsuit brought by 18 Arkansas death row inmates who are challenging the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injections. Testimony by a pharmacologist and an anesthesiologist directly contradicted witnesses in similar positions and testified last week for the plaintiffs.

Federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An anesthesiologist testified Friday in the lawsuit brought by a group of Arkansas death row inmates that two of the prisoners who were put to death in 2017 likely suffered "excruciating" pain because of the first drug used in the state’s lethal injection process. Dr. Gail Van Norman from Seattle said that’s because midazolam has no significant clinical anesthetic effects.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Thursday the state is suing three drug distributors over their role in the opioid addiction epidemic in the state. The lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, targets the three largest distributors of opioids nationwide, accounting for 85 percent of the nationwide opioid market, with a combined annual revenue of $375 billion.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

Testimony in a federal lawsuit over Arkansas’s use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections shifted Wednesday from witnesses of recent executions to expert testimony. Attorneys for a group of death row inmates are trying to establish that the execution process inflicts unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Craig W. Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, said that midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used, would not effectively keep inmates from feeling the following drugs, which stop the heart and paralyze the muscles.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal trial is underway with a group of Arkansas death row inmates challenging the state’s use of a sedative which is the first of three drugs used in the current lethal injection protocol. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that midazolam is not effective in fully knocking prisoners unconscious before the lethal drugs are administered, causing an unnecessary amount of pain. An attorney for the state said the inmates can’t prove its use is unconstitutional.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, and a husband-and-wife executive team for one of the nation’s largest healthcare nonprofits were charged with 32 new counts in a public corruption scheme that involved embezzlement, bribes and illegal campaign contributions to elected officials in Arkansas and Missouri.

Arkansas Works Governor Asa Hutchinson Work Requirement
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Trump administration is appealing recent rulings by a federal judge that blocked work requirements for some low-income people on Medicaid.

The rulings last month by Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., blocked work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. The Arkansas requirements were already in effect, while in Kentucky they are a top priority for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

The Justice Department filed notice on Wednesday appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas was the first state in the nation to be granted a waiver by the federal government to impose a work requirement on those with healthcare coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion. With Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg which halted the requirement, Arkansas leaders have been reacting on nationally-heard NPR programs.

The judge said the requirement undermines the very purpose of Medicaid which is to give medical care to low-income people .

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shephard, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren speaking to reporters Thursday offering reaction to the ruling by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg. Hutchinson says he is asking federal officia
Michael Hiblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is urging the Trump administration to pursue an expedited appeal of a U.S. district judge’s decision nullifying the Arkansas Works work requirement, while the Speaker of the House expects that body to vote in favor of funding the agency that administers the program on Friday.

The news came at a press conference Wednesday led by Hutchinson along with Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, and Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs.

Luke Kramer STARR Coalition
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Little Rock as a group of healthcare providers is asking a judge to delay Arkansas’s transition to managed care. The changeover is set to take place Friday, but the plaintiffs say the state hasn’t adequately set up the new system which will lead to disruptions of service.

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