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State Sen. Trent Garner's May 28 op-ed in favor of Issue 1 titled "For tort reform" failed to mention that Section 3 of Issue 1 gives the Arkansas Legislature full authority to make all court rules of pleadings and practice and rules of evidence. It is the classic bait-and-switch used a few years ago to promote an "ethics reform" ballot question, which also dramatically extended the legislators' term limits.

Senator Garner was one of the co-sponsors of Issue 1. Yet the senator's reasons for supporting Issue 1 are misleading.

As a lawyer he knows, or should know, that frivolous lawsuits are ultimately dismissed and lawyers can be punished for filing such lawsuits under Rule 11 of the Arkansas Rules for Civil Procedure. Furthermore, the column includes numerous false assumptions, unsubstantiated allegations and baseless conclusions not supported by any facts. It is a mere litany of "soundbite" buzz words. Nowhere is there an attempt to explain what the amendment actually says or will do.

Unfortunately, this kind of misleading information will be repeated ad nauseam from now until Nov. 6.

For example, one rule change suggested by Issue 1 supporters is requiring the losing party to pay the prevailing party's attorney's fees in a lawsuit. Such a rule would effectively close the courthouse doors to our citizens. Even a citizen with a meritorious claim would be afraid to seek judicial relief due to the possibility of losing the case and having to pay the attorney's fees of the other side, which could very well be a large corporation or an insurance company.

Issue 1 no doubt is strongly supported by many Arkansas legislators, not because it is good for Arkansas, but because it gives the Legislature more power, with ultimate authority (through the enactment of court rules of pleadings and practice and rules of evidence) to control how justice is administered in Arkansas courts. The problem, as noted in an opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court, is that politicians are expected to do what their contributors demand of them, while judges are expected to protect the constitutional rights of all persons, without regard to the wishes of campaign contributors. See Williams-Yulee v. Fla. Bar (2015).

We must not turn the scales of justice over to the highest bidder.

Proponents of Issue 1 make unsupported claims about how the fear of legal liability has hurt job growth and access to health care in rural Arkansas. Similarly, Senator Garner goes on to claim that the Arkansas economy is weighed down by the burden of the judicial system. His colleague and co-sponsor of Issue 1, Sen. Jason Rapert, expressed a contrary opinion in an op-ed published in this newspaper on January 15, 2018: "Arkansas has made impressive economic progress in the past seven years. In the first quarter of 2016, Arkansas led the nation in gross domestic product growth at 3.9 percent. Our unemployment rate is 0.5 percent lower than the national average, and confidence in our state as a place to do business continues to grow." Similarly, according to our governor, Arkansas has the lowest unemployment rate in history, and our economy is in great shape.

Issue 1 is being promoted as "tort reform," which fails to inform voters about Issue 1's proposed shift of court rulemaking authority. Likewise, Garner's op-ed fails to mention that, if passed, Issue 1 will change the Arkansas Constitution and shift the Arkansas Supreme Court's rulemaking authority away from the judiciary and give it to the Legislature. This is the same bait-and-switch tactic used a few years ago to promote an "ethics reform" amendment, which obfuscated its impact on term limits.

Issue 1 is a hostile takeover of our courts by the Legislature. It will have drastic consequences on the balance of power between the three co-equal branches of government. Do not be misled. Preserve the separation of powers.

Vote "no" on Issue 1.


Annabelle Imber Tuck is a retired Arkansas Supreme Court justice, and chair of the Defending Your Day in Court Legislative Question Committee.

Editorial on 06/15/2018

Print Headline: Vote 'no' on 1


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Archived Comments

  • GOHOGS19
    June 15, 2018 at 9:33 a.m.

    Of course 98% of lawyers and judges are going to oppose Issue 1. in other news, the sky is blue.

  • Ericedwlawcom
    June 15, 2018 at 10:36 a.m.

    That should tell you it is wrong. This is a clear violation of the basic doctrine of separation of powers. The question is do you want our legislature deciding how the courts operate. The overwhelming majority of legislatures are not attorneys and do not understand the impact of the rules and procedures of the courts. Do you want the legislature telling you how to do your job and change the rules in mid stream? This will make the courts subject to the whims of special interests groups and lobbyists. Basic common sense says this issue 1 is bad for the state and bad for the individual citizen

  • JMort69
    June 15, 2018 at 2:54 p.m.

    Oh yeah, let's give the crooks in our legislature even more power. In fact, why not just make them dictators? That way, they can rob us blind and there is nothing we can do. Don't kid yourselves. The primary backers and beneficiaries to Issue 1 are the nursing homes. One of the biggest members is Michael Morton. You know, the guy from Muldrow, OK (look that up on Google) who owns multiple nursing homes and was, apparently,involved in a bribery scam with Judge Maggio to reduce a verdict in one of the many lawsuits against him. Maggio is now in prison. I'm sure Mike Morton would like our legislature to look like the one from his native OK, where they haul them to jail weekly for corruption and debauchery. Eastern Oklahoma is historically famous for outlaw behavior and these are their descendants. His buddy, Bob Ballinger, also from OK, took the maximum contribution from Mike's nursing home lobby in his primary senate campaign. He then promptly sponsored a bill to protect nursing homes from lawsuits by those whose relatives are mistreated. Also, Ballinger and that other icon of virtue, Jake Files, are sponsors of Issue 1. We fell for convicted felon Jon Woods "eithics reform" and it got us more crooks for longer terms. We don't need to vote for anything the bunch of thieves we have in our state house propose. Clearly, since the governor stands quietly by and lets us be robbed, his nepehw, Jeremy, allegedly, leading the charge by with bribes totalling $500,000.00, and now, his other nephew, Jim Hendren being in charge of the latest "ethics reform", we can't trust anything coming out of Little Rock. If you value your loved ones who are placed in the care of nursing homes to which you pay a fortune, you had better vote against this issue. Because, you can bet, Mike Morton and his cartel are salivating at the prospect of being in control of our court system. If that happens, we ain't seen nothin' on the corruption front yet!

  • LRCrookAtty
    June 15, 2018 at 3:35 p.m.

    JMort...I actually thought you were one of the guys on my floor, because he gave the exact same information the other day to me. I looked it up, thinking there is no way it could be that true. Come to find out, every single point you made is actually the truth. I was just dumbfounded that the nursing home industry had that much pull as lobbyists in the General Assembly.

  • JMort69
    June 15, 2018 at 4:58 p.m.

    Oh yeah, L.R.Atty. Anyone from my part of the state, along the OK border knows those ploys all too well. People ran to the border, crossed into Indian Territory, where there was no law and stopped. The people who still live there are, in many cases, their direct descendants. Morton is from Muldrow. You can still get burned out or killed for very little money there. Morton fancies himself a city slicker, bought himself a big building in downtown Ft. Smith, put his name in gaudy, gold letters on it, but he still has those Eastern Oklahoma crooked roots. This is just the way they do things there. And, we have fallen right in with it, since the crooks in our legislature are so eager to take Morton's and other's money. In Ballinger and Woods cases, they were already broke, Ballinger having been in foreclosure on his home 5 times in 5 years. A broke legislator is an open invitation to corruption. And, Ballinger is from OK, so he's just helping out a fellow Okie. If you have ever paid a nursing home, which my family has, you know how much money they make. The fact is, Morton and his nursing home colleagues want all your money for no accountability. The thought of Okie Mike Morton and his powerful lobby, through his paid for patsies like Okie Ballinger, making the rules for our Arkansas courts should send a chill through all of us. Certainly does me.

  • JakeTidmore
    June 15, 2018 at 5:32 p.m.

    Thanks to Tuck for shedding more light on a blatant power grab by the legislature and the lobbyists who have them in their backpockets. Ethics in the legislative branch is fast becoming an endangered species and you know how Republicans are about endangered species.

  • LRCrookAtty
    June 15, 2018 at 6:03 p.m.

    JMort...I completely agree with what you are saying. To further put out the information here is the response to the GIF scandal, and the medical marijuana bribery (plus many other wrong doings) from the Arkansas Times.
    "Reactions to all this: not much. The governor is taking a wait-and-see approach and refuses response to specific questions about law changes that could elevate public confidence. If somebody — such as his nephew, the senator — should be indicted, well, of course, they should resign from office. The chairman of the state Democratic Party said little more than the same. That same chairman, Rep. Michael John Gray, had earlier missed an opportunity to endorse clean government by explaining away the General Improvement Fund scandal — in which legislators unconstitutionally designated recipients of pork barrel money. He said the program generally was a good thing, though kickbacks weren't."
    I think he actually meant "...though kickbacks weren't..." once we got caught.

  • LRCrookAtty
    June 15, 2018 at 6:07 p.m.

    And of course GoHog states the same thing over and over again, "Of course 98% of lawyers and judges are going to oppose Issue 1."
    That is exactly what the General Assembly's idea was. Push this as keeping those low-life, dirty, lying attorneys from making all of this big money. They will not realize how bad issue 1 is until they have to use the court system. Then the idiot will look at his/her attorney, with some stupid look on his/her face, and say "Why is that the rule? That is just stupid!" The answer will be, because dumba$$es like you voted for Issue 1 and the General Assembly thought it would be a good ideal.

  • NoUserName
    June 15, 2018 at 6:07 p.m.

    "We fell for convicted felon Jon Woods "eithics reform" and it got us more crooks for longer terms."
    For those that live in LR, keep in mind Warwick Sabin, who I believe has thrown his hat into the mayoral ring, was the primary author of that amendment. Woods signed on as a co-sponsor.

  • LRCrookAtty
    June 15, 2018 at 6:11 p.m.

    Jake..."...and you know how Republicans are about endangered species." Yes, just like blind and stupid democrats. All of you blindly and stupidly support whoever has the letter after their name that you support. I've seen idiots defend Obama, Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and others over and over again. It does not matter what the evidence is, they will always (meaning the person supporting the lying cheating politician) skew and spin the context to make it okay. If that is not possible they will jump to the fallback position of "Oh, well (name your past President you didn't support) did X, Y or Z, and that was so bad that what my guy is doing does not matter."