The Arkansas Court of Appeals, saying the issue was moot, Wednesday dismissed a Little Rock TV station's appeal of an order blocking the airing of election attack ads that were critical of Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.
Goodson had filed defamation suits against several broadcasters in the run-up to the nonpartisan judicial elections in May. Her suit claimed that TV ads paid for by the Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Crisis Network included false and defamatory information. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza agreed and halted the ads from running in central Arkansas media markets in the final days before the May election.
Tegna Inc., the operator of Little Rock's KTHV, Channel 11, appealed, arguing that Piazza's order was an unconstitutional prior restraint on political speech.
But after months of filings of briefs and the case being bounced between the state's appellate courts, a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals determined that the case had been "rendered moot by the passage of time."
The opinion was written by Court of Appeals Judge Robert Gladwin, who was joined by Judges Brandon Harrison and Phillip Whiteaker.
Goodson and Little Rock attorney David Sterling were the top two finishers in the first round of voting. Goodson bested Sterling in November's Supreme Court runoff election, which was also fraught with negative ads.
John Tull, an attorney for Tegna, said he disagreed with the Court of Appeals' decision Wednesday, saying "the issue is real, even if the election is over."
Tull added that he would be reviewing his options for a possible appeal.
Goodson's attorney, Lauren Hoover, said she was not surprised by the outcome of the case. In court filings, Hoover urged the appellate judges to affirm the lower court's decision.
"We don't have any problems or quibbles with what the court decided today," Hoover said.
During the fall runoff, Goodson sued the Republican State Leadership Committee, also based in Washington, which had begun airing similar attacks against the justice after the Judicial Crisis Network stopped purchasing ads in the race.
That lawsuit went to federal court, and in November, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ruled against Goodson's request to stop the ads, saying that to do so would impermissibly restrain future speech.
Goodson chose not to appeal that decision, and her federal case was later dismissed on Nov. 15.
Metro on 12/13/2018
Print Headline: Blocked-attack-ads appeal called moot; 3-judge panel tosses Little Rock TV station’s filing