Arkansas Courts

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 attorney for an Arkansas judge who faces sanctions for participating in a death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the use of an execution drug says the complaint against the jurist is more about optics than it is ethics.

A judicial ethics commission on Friday held a hearing on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's request to dismiss the complaint against him over the demonstration last year. Griffen was photographed laying on a cot outside the governor's mansion during a death penalty demonstration last year.

Judge Mark Derrick
Bad Government In Arkansas Blog

A civil rights organization has filed a lawsuit alleging that an Arkansas district court judge is running an illegal “debtors’ prison” in White County. The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law contends that Judge Mark Derrick not only imposes excessive fines without evaluating the ability of defendants to pay, but also jails defendants for nonpayment 30 days at a time.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six plaintiffs, all residents of White County, who say they have been jailed or otherwise threatened with legal punishment for being unable to pay court-ordered fines.

Jeff Sessions Cody Hiland
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Arkansas on Wednesday for a pair of events. Speaking at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, he called for a fix to a Supreme Court ruling regarding violent offenders. Sessions later joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other officials near Hot Springs to discuss school safety.

30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

Public comments are being compiled on a $630 million proposal to widen Interstate 30 from six to 10 lanes in central Arkansas. Friday was the deadline for people to give their thoughts on an environmental assessment, with the proposal to now be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.

Satanic Temple

A 3,000-pound goat-headed statue of the Satanic idol Baphomet is to be part of a protest of the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Arkansas state Capitol, organizers say.

The statue is owned by the Satanic Temple, which describes itself as "non-theistic religious organization." The co-founder of the temple, who uses the pseudonym Lucien Greaves, announced Monday the statue will be part of the protest on August 16.

Hughes Street Interstate 630 I-630 expansion
Arkansas Department of Transportation

U.S. District Judge James Moody said he will likely issue a decision Tuesday on whether to halt an expansion project just getting underway on Interstate 630 in Little Rock. On Monday he heard a full day of oral arguments and testimony that continued into the evening. 

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Yet another guilty plea has been entered in a kickback scheme using tax money related to convicted lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford, a former Preferred Family Healthcare executive.

Duane “Dak” Kees, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced Thursday that Jerry Kennedy Walsh of Magnolia, Ark., pleaded guilty today to conspiring to misapply over $380,000 from South Arkansas Youth Services (SAYS)without the authority of the non-profit’s Board of Directors.

Ten Commandments
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal judge has agreed to merge two lawsuits by opponents of Arkansas' Ten Commandments monument that seek to have the display removed from the state Capitol grounds.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Monday granted the request to consolidate the lawsuits challenging the privately funded display. A 2015 law required the state to allow its construction.

The monument was reinstalled in April after the original version was destroyed by a man who crashed his car into it.

Jake Files
Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jake Files was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison for what the judge called "egregious" violations. The Republican of Fort Smith pleaded guilty in January to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains

A court case in Arkansas is proving to be a bellwether of abortion-restrictive laws in the region, as a similar case in Missouri attempts to give fewer options to women choosing to terminate pregnancy.

Women in Arkansas only have access to surgical abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on whether a state law restricting access to medication abortion is unconstitutional.

Jake Files
Arkansas Times

Federal prosecutors are asking for up to 24 months of prison time for former Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, more than the 12 to 18 months that may have been suggested by the United States Probation Office. Files’ attorney is seeking a “very brief term of incarceration.”

Files’ sentencing is set for 10 a.m., June 18 at the federal courthouse in Fort Smith with U.S. District Court Judge P.K. Holmes III, presiding.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

Eighteen condemned inmates say in new court filings that the executions of four men in Arkansas last year exposed problems that should render the state's lethal injection procedure unconstitutional.

Citing witness accounts of what happened in the execution chamber, the inmates' lawyers say it was never clear whether the Arkansas Department of Correction followed its guidelines. They said there was no way to tell when each drug was administered and that it wasn't clear an attendant performed proper consciousness checks on each inmate.

Ten Commandments
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The man accused of destroying a Ten Commandments monument outside the Arkansas state Capitol has been acquitted of a felony charge by a judge who cited evidence of a mental disease or defect.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said Thursday that Michael Tate Reed must report to the state hospital in Little Rock for additional evaluations that could lead to his release.

Ten Commandments Jason Rapert
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Opponents of a Ten Commandments display at the Arkansas state Capitol are suing to have the monument removed, arguing it's an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government.

Separate lawsuits were filed in federal court Wednesday challenging the display, which was installed on the Capitol grounds last month. A 2015 law required the state to allow the privately funded monument.

The monument was reinstalled last month after the original version was destroyed last year by a man who crashed his car into the display.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker is set to hear arguments Thursday in Little Rock concerning a back-and-forth civil case pitting Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and a Little Rock law firm seeking to clarify the state’s repeated rejection of proposed constitutional amendments.

Primary elections are set for May 22, the same day as the deciding nonpartisan judicial election for Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice. Three candidates, including the incumbent, are vying for the seat.

Justice Courtney Goodson was elected in 2010, and is seeking another eight-year term on the bench. Arkansas Department of Human Services Chief Legal Counsel David Sterling and state Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson are running to unseat Goodson. 

Facebook/Arkansas Secretary of State/Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

There’s one seat up for grabs on the Arkansas’s highest court, and it belongs to Justice Courtney Goodson.

She’s seeking another eight-year term, and has two challengers in the nonpartisan judicial election: state Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson, and Department of Human Services Chief Counsel David Sterling.

And while all three say they want to focus on the issues, a bigger story has loomed large over the race. Both Goodson and Hixson have been the subject of T-V and online ads from dark money groups; ones that don’t have to disclose their donors.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was expected to testify Friday morning in a lawsuit accusing her of obstructing ballot initiatives in her role of approving the language of items being placed on the ballot. But as the hearing was getting underway, it was announced that the trail was being moved from state court to federal court.

It comes just days after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Griffen issued a strongly worded opinion ordering Mr. Rutledge to testify and not allowing her to defer it to a lower level staffer.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Talk Business & Politics

A judge is denying a request by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to quash a subpoena calling her to testify in a lawsuit.

A group that has been rejected in its efforts to get language for a ballot initiative approved by the AG’s office argued that Rutledge "has acted in bad faith" and is abusing her power. The Committee to Restore Arkansas’ Rights wants to change the sovereign immunity provision in the state constitution.

The Arkansas Supreme Court says it'll hear oral arguments over a judge's decision to prevent the state from licensing companies to grow medical marijuana.

Justices on Monday agreed to hear arguments June 7 in the state's appeal of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's decision striking down the licensing process for medical marijuana cultivation facilities. Griffen ruled the process violated the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for certain medical conditions.

A federal jury has convicted a former Arkansas state senator of fraud involving legislative grants to a small college in Springdale. A co-defendant was also convicted.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Jon Woods was convicted Thursday on 15 of the 17 counts he faced, while co-defendant Randell Shelton Jr. was convicted on 12 of 15 counts. Federal prosecutors said the men were involved in a kickback scheme involving Ecclesia College. The college's former president pleaded guilty in the case last month, and former state Rep. Micah Neal pleaded guilty last year.

Tony Alamo
KATV, Channel 7 News

The author of a new book about apocalyptic evangelist Tony Alamo is speaking Saturday at the Arkansas Literary Festival. Alamo, who operated compounds in Arkansas, died in federal prison in 2017 at the age of 82. He was convicted in 2009 of sexually abusing girls he considered his wives, one as young as nine.

Debby Schriver's book Whispering in the Daylight: The Children of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and Their Journey to Freedom was released earlier this month. She spoke with KUAR about Alamo, which you can listen to above.

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

A handful of state lawmakers are calling for Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s impeachment amid questions of his fitness to serve on the bench.

Griffen on Tuesday repeated his April 2017 protest of laying on a cot in front of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, intending to symbolize a condemned inmate on a gurney.

State Sen. Trent Garner (R-Camden), who called for Griffen’s impeachment following last year’s protest, said Griffen’s vocal objection to capital punishment is one of many questionable actions and public statements made during Griffen’s tenure.

Jury selection is underway in the trial for a former Arkansas state senator accused in an alleged kickback scheme.

Former Sen. Jon Woods faces 15 fraud charges. Prosecutors accuse of him of taking kickbacks from former Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III in exchange for directing state funding to the college.

Paris pleaded guilty last week to one count of fraud and agreed to testify for prosecutors. Woods' attorney, Patrick Benca, has said his client is innocent and that defense attorneys will prove that, despite Paris' guilty plea.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

Arkansas is asking the state's top court to halt a judge's order allowing six farmers to use an herbicide that was banned by state regulators following complaints that it drifted onto crops and caused damage.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to stay Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox's ruling exempting the farmers from the state Plant Board's rule banning dicamba's use. The panel has banned dicamba's use from April 16 through October 31 this year. Rutledge on Wednesday filed notice she was appealing Fox's ruling.

Opioid Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas is suing three drug makers claiming they’re at fault for the opioid crisis that has caused a drastic increase in the number of overdose deaths in Arkansas.

A former state representative has been chosen the new chief administrative officer in Jefferson County after the former executive resigned when it was revealed he had received $100,000 in bribes.

The county's Quorum Court on Thursday selected 82-year-old Booker Clemons as the new county judge.

Clemons is retired from the University of Arkansas' Cooperative Extension Service and served in the state House from 2001-2007.

A newspaper says a former Arkansas lawmaker who became Jefferson County's chief administrative officer will resign after a federal prosecutor revealed the official had received $100,000 in bribes.

The Pine Bluff Commercial reported Monday that County Judge Henry "Hank" Wilkins IV sent a resignation letter to the governor, effective Thursday. In the letter, Wilkins said he was sorry his own actions made the resignation necessary.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

An Arkansas judge who blocked the state from issuing its first licenses to grow medical marijuana has rejected an effort to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state's application process for cultivation facilities.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Friday rejected the state's argument that Naturalis Health, LLC, a company that unsuccessfully applied for a license, didn't have standing. Griffen also rejected the state's argument that it is immune from the lawsuit.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and potential candidates Frank Scott, Jr. and Warwick Sabin.
Arkansas Times

A judge has thrown out a lawsuit by the city of Little Rock that attempted to stop two potential candidates for mayor from using exploratory committees to raise money.

The city argued that Frank Scott, Jr. and Warwick Sabin should follow a city ordinance that prohibits raising campaign money until June. But the ordinance doesn’t mention exploratory committees for all but formally declared candidates like Sabin and Scott.

Pages