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FORT SMITH -- A judge canceled a hearing Monday on a motion from attorneys representing Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson who filed suit in Sebastian County Circuit Court last week over the airing of attack ads during her re-election campaign.

Sebastian County Circuit Judge Michael Fitzhugh issued the order about 9:30 a.m., less than an hour after attorneys for Goodson filed a motion to call off the hearing, which focused on a request to temporarily restrain the Judicial Crisis Network of Washington, D.C., from airing the ads that Goodson has called false, misleading and defamatory.

The motion said a witness who testified in hearings on identical lawsuits in Washington and Pulaski counties last week was not available Monday to testify in Fort Smith.

"Additionally, even if this court were to enjoin the defendants herein following the hearing, there will be less than 24 hours for any order to be implemented," the motion stated.

In addition to party primaries, the nonpartisan judicial election is today. Goodson faces Arkansas Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson and Department of Human Services Chief Attorney David Sterling for her seat on the state Supreme Court.

Hixson also has been targeted by Judicial Crisis Network attack ads. He denounced the ads but declined to take legal action. None of the decisions in Goodson's case affected the ads the Judicial Crisis Network ran against Hixson.

Sterling denied involvement in the attack ads.

The motion also said most of the defendants in the case -- Cox Media LLC; KATV LLC; Nexstar; and Mission Broadcasting -- have volunteered to stop running the ad.

"In the case of Comcast of Arkansas LLC, Judicial Crisis Network requested that the dark money ad against plaintiffs not be played any further," Goodson's motion said.

A judge in Little Rock on Friday banned the airing of the ad in Pulaski County, while a judge ruling in the Washington County case rejected Goodson's motion to bar the ad.

Two minutes after Goodson's attorneys filed the continuance motion in Fort Smith, the attorney for Tribune Broadcasting Fort Smith LLC, owner of KFSM in Fort Smith and KXNW in Northwest Arkansas, filed a motion to dismiss Goodson's court action in Sebastian County, according to the circuit clerk's file marks.

Attorney Christopher Keller of Little Rock argued for Tribune Broadcasting that since the lawsuits were identical in Washington, Pulaski and Sebastian counties, the law says the case in Washington County had jurisdiction over the matter because it was filed before the case in Sebastian County.

Keller quoted a recent state Supreme Court ruling in which Goodson wrote that "the rule is intended to discourage a multiplicity of suits and to protect the defendant from 'double vexation from the same cause.'"

Fitzhugh did not rule Monday on the motion to dismiss.

State Desk on 05/22/2018

Print Headline: Justice's hearing in ad suit called off

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