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A lawsuit filed in Pulaski County on Thursday seeks to knock Issue 1 off the November ballot, stating that the proposal put forward by the Legislature is an illegal amalgamation of changes to the state Constitution.

The complaint, filed by Marion Humphrey, a former Pulaski County circuit judge, is the first legal maneuver against Issue 1, a proposal pitched as "tort reform" but cast by many attorneys as patients' advocates as an attack on the independence of the Arkansas judiciary.

Issue 1 proposes to amend the Arkansas Constitution by placing a cap on attorneys fees and certain lawsuit damages, as well as giving the Legislature final rulemaking authority over the courts.

The lawsuit, prepared by attorney David Couch, states that the various parts of Issue 1 do not add up to form one coherent amendment. Former Circuit Court Judge Marion Humphrey is listed as the plaintiff in the suit.

Issue 1 "constitutes unconstitutional 'logrolling' and 'pork-barreling,'" Couch stated in a draft of his suit, which was submitted to the court Thursday afternoon.

Under the state Constitution's provisions for amendments, the Legislature may vote to place up to three amendments on the general election ballot during a regular session. Each amendment must get a seperate vote.

But Couch's lawsuit alleges that Issue 1 is essentially four different amendments that voters will only get to vote on once.

Proponents of Issue 1, including the state Chamber of Commerce, argue that the amendment would help reduce the costs of litigation for businesses and hospitals.

Millions of dollars have already been raised groups planning to campaign on either side of the issue in the fall.

Couch's lawsuit is against Secretary of State Mark Martin, whose office certifies what amendments get places on ballots, and counts the final votes.

Two years ago, the Arkansas Supreme Court halted voting on two different amendments due to lawsuits. One of the struck proposals, Issue 4, dealt with attorneys fees and damages specifically in medical malpractice suits.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • JMort69
    July 12, 2018 at 5:18 p.m.

    Good for Couch. Let the nursing home lobby, with their big time supporter Mike Morton, know that they are not going to play us like convicted felon Jon Woods did on "ethics reform". Morton has been in mutiple lawsuits regarding his nursing homes. He was also involved in Judge Maggio's bribery downfall. This has nothing to do with anything except reducing nursing homes' liabilities. They could treat your dependent loved one any way they wanted and you would have limited recourse. The sponsors of this bill, include now convicted felon Jake Files and Bob Ballinger, whose campaign contributions clearly show he is in their back pocket. These guys' votes were bought and paid for and they were dancing to their puppetmasters' tunes. Well, the rest of us don't. Morton, et al, will just have to sell their snake oil somewhere else, maybe in his home state of Oklahoma. Here is Arkansas, we won't allow him to get away with it. I hope the courts jerk this from the ballot and people remember who put it there to begin with.

  • JakeTidmore
    July 12, 2018 at 5:49 p.m.

    Amen, JM69. Power grabs like this loaded with benefits for special interests need to be shot down like slow ducks on the opening day of hunting season.

  • RBBrittain
    July 12, 2018 at 5:52 p.m.

    My heart is cheering for Judge Humphrey, because Issue 1 is a bad idea made even worse by attacking the judiciary. My head, however, is wary because the legal standards for throwing amendments proposed by the legislature off the ballot is far more lenient than for those proposed by petition. Couch might be able to pull this off, but I'm very worried. We still need to rally behind the opposition to Issue 1, especially the main group headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck, to stop this attack by our legislature on nursing home patients AND the judiciary.

  • Goad
    July 12, 2018 at 6:20 p.m.

    Leave it alone. Don’t need the issue 1 unless u r a nursing home. If they can’t pay 4 their malpractice, let them close there doors. Some one else will fill their slot. Morton has plenty of $ to pay judges to help him. Vote against 1.

  • skeptic1
    July 12, 2018 at 6:47 p.m.

    This Amendment is funded by the medical and hospital associations. The public needs to understand that medical malpractice cases are rarely if ever frivolous as they are very expensive to prosecute for the plaintiff's law firm and only a few attorneys in the state will take them as they are taken on contingency with the typical out-of-pocket expenses north of $100,000. This amendment would place low arbitrary caps on damages that almost always involve substantial pain, suffering, disfigurement, and lifelong disabilities. How much is your or your loved ones' lives worth?

  • gandk
    July 12, 2018 at 7:12 p.m.

    We're being suckered into voting away our rights. Insurance companies selling life insurance will tell a young father that he needs millions in coverage to finish raising his children should he die, but, if he dies in a fiery car-truck crash its only worth a fraction of that.

    Our legislators should be ashamed.