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story.lead_photo.caption Courtney Goodson is shown in a file photo beside a screenshot of a brief of an appeal filed by Tegna on Monday.

In a court filing Monday, a Little Rock broadcaster claimed its free-speech rights were violated in May when a circuit judge barred it from airing ads harshly critical of Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

The circuit judge's order to pull the ads is now on appeal to the state Supreme Court by Tegna Inc., the parent company of Little Rock TV station KTHV. Attorneys for Tegna filed the brief of their appeal Monday.

"By granting Goodson's request for a preliminary injunction, the Circuit Court silences campaign speech in the critical days before the election," wrote attorney John Tull in the brief.

Tull also serves as counsel for the Arkansas Press Association, which is not a party to the lawsuit. He said the decision by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza contradicted previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding prior restraints on speech and set a harmful precedent.

"Failure to [reverse Piazza's decision] will result in a biennial flood of defamation suits from aggrieved political candidates across Arkansas, who will follow Goodson's lead and sue the press to silence speech harmful to their campaign," the brief stated.

Lauren Hoover, an attorney for Goodson, said Monday that the ads were not only unfair, they were false. The U.S. Supreme Court, she said, has also recognized the differences between nonpartisan judicial races and partisan campaigns. Hoover's reply brief is due in a month.

"What Tegna doesn't understand is there are political ads within the range of fair play," Hoover said. "You can't just go out and lie."

KTHV, or Channel 11, was one of several Arkansas TV stations that aired attack ads purchased by the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based group that has inserted itself into several of the state's recent judicial races, which are nominally nonpartisan.

The group ran ads against Goodson during the spring primary season accusing the incumbent justice of accepting lavish gifts from attorneys while simultaneously seeking a raise. Goodson called the ads defamatory, stating that she has recused from all cases with conflicts of interest and that the requested raise was made by the whole court.

In the final weeks leading up to the May 22 election, Goodson filed lawsuits in Little Rock, Fort Smith and Fayetteville seeking to halt the ads. The justice has said she will recuse from any of her cases should they reach the Supreme Court.

Goodson succeeded initially in having the ads pulled in the Fayetteville market, only to have the case reassigned to Pulaski County due to conflicts, and the injunction overturned. At the same time the ads began running again in Northwest Arkansas, Piazza's decision halted them in Little Rock. The suit in Fort Smith was dismissed.

In addition to Tegna, the cable provider Comcast also signaled its desire to appeal Piazza's decision. But Comcast has since entered an agreement to not air the Judicial Crisis Network ads in the future and would not be a party to the Supreme Court appeal, Hoover said. Neither Comcast nor its attorneys commented on the nature of the agreement.

Marty Schack, the general manager at KTHV, did not respond to a request for comment on the station's plans regarding future ad purchased by the Judicial Crisis Network.

The May election ended with Goodson advancing to a runoff with attorney David Sterling, who was praised in several ads run by another out-of-state group. The runoff will be held along with other races on Nov. 6.

Metro on 07/31/2018

Print Headline: On appeal, LR broadcaster says free-speech rights violated in Goodson case

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Archived Comments

  • LevyRat
    July 31, 2018 at 6:19 a.m.

    I guess the Press thinks "Free Speech" means free to broadcast lies, since they do it daily.

    The current press makes me sick, I long for the days when you could trust the news to be the truth, rather than printing or repeating anything someone tells you without regard if it is the truth.

  • abb
    July 31, 2018 at 7:09 a.m.

    There is a reason we call them "presstitutes" .......And Shakespeare was wrong. First, the press. Then the lawyers.

  • RBBrittain
    July 31, 2018 at 7:32 a.m.

    As a law student, I'm sympathetic to Justice Goodson's claims; but I also recognize that the press must be protected. There's "lies" like twisting the truth as JCN did with its ads, but even that's not the same as bald-faced LIES like President Trump tells with almost every tweet. Kinda like I've said about Judge Humphrey's lawsuit against Issue 1, my heart is with Justice Goodson, but my head is with Tegna / KTHV here. Don't let Trump's insanity push you to attack the media; that's exactly what he (and Comrade Putin, and JCN) WANTS us to do.

  • ZeebronZ
    July 31, 2018 at 7:51 a.m.

    Honestly, whether they are true or not, the information was put out there. Even a retraction wouldn't help now. If it really is false, the perpetrators should be held accountable. But that won't happen, will it?

  • hah406
    July 31, 2018 at 8:10 a.m.

    Way to go Rat and abb, attack the first amendment. If you think the press is lying that much, you have bought into Trump's attacks on the foundation of our country and are asking for a dictatorship rather than a free country. As for the suit, why did they sue Tenga? Don't shoot the messenger. If the advertisements are false, why didn't they go after the Judicial Crisis Network instead of the TV station? JCN produced the ads, Tenga just sold the slots and broadcast them.

  • Razrbak
    July 31, 2018 at 8:13 a.m.

    News media only files these cases when it hits their pocket books and not for any other reason.

  • nbipad
    July 31, 2018 at 8:23 a.m.

    These ads are paid political ads. Just like any paid ad the press is not certifying that the ad is true and accurate. When there is an ad that “this is the best . . . . in the state of Arkansas”, that does not mean that it is true. As the person watching that ad, it is my responsibility to understand that the accuracy of any ad is suspect. It would be impossible for the press to determine the accuracy of every paid ad.

  • Retirednwsman
    July 31, 2018 at 9:17 a.m.

    One of the first steps to a dictatorship is attacking the press. That's where Trump and many of the conservatives in this state want to go, but not me. I don't allow political ads to affect my judgment and who I vote for; I do my own research and don't allow the media to spoon feed me. Its obvious that many in this state are too lazy to do their own research, they'd rather have it spoon fed to them, even if it is wrong.

  • TimberTopper
    July 31, 2018 at 9:45 a.m.

    I'd say go after the people that made and paid for the ad to be run.

  • mrcharles
    July 31, 2018 at 9:50 a.m.

    those of the totalitarian thought [ note the letters.... total ....within the word, means total control] want the word from Mt Olypmus by the self appointed deities to say what is and what isnt, and dont you know, if you disagree at all , want to do bad things to you as necessary to keep the right thoughts out there.

    throughout history , whether thoughts spoken, or then print and/or now electronically the dicktators want to order you to shut up and if you dont get the hint, may take the next step like in russia [ now who ruins that country now?] and with the orgy of praise for putin/russia by trump supporters sadly , bad ideas are now becoming the norm by that group.

    guess I just mean abb is off base again and her little ratt too.

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