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State Supreme Court justice files suits against broadcasters to stop ads from airing; 1 judge orders halt

by John Moritz | May 14, 2018 at 10:56 a.m. | Updated May 14, 2018 at 6:57 p.m.
In this Feb. 12, 2018 file photo, Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson sits inside the House chamber while waiting on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to deliver his State of the State address in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)

6:55 P.M. UPDATE:

A judge in Washington County has issued a temporary restraining order to several television broadcasters, ordering them to stop airing ads against Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson that her lawyers claim are “false, misleading and defamatory.”

Washington County Circuit Judge Doug Martin issued the order Monday afternoon. Named in the suit were Tribune Broadcasting of Fort Smith, which operates KFSM and KXNW in northwest Arkansas; as well as Nexstar Broadcasting Inc, which owns the area’s KNWA and KLRT stations.

It was unclear if the judge’s order applied the company’s stations in central Arkansas, where a similar lawsuit has been filed.

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

2 P.M. UPDATE:

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson and her re-election campaign have filed a lawsuit against several broadcasters, seeking to stop stations from airing what she calls “defamatory” ads.

The lawsuit named Little Rock's KATV as well as Nexstar Broadcasting Inc., the manager of KARK, KASN and KLRT-TV; Mission Broadcasting, which owns KFTA in Fort Smith; and Tenga, which owns KTHV. Comcast of Arkansas Inc. and Cox Media LLC were also listed as defendants.

The lawsuit was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court about 1 p.m. Monday, with early voting in the judicial race already underway. The election will be held May 22.

The ads in question are funded by the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based group that keeps its donors secret. In 30-second spots, Goodson is accused of having accepted high-priced gifts and seeking a raise.

In court papers, her attorneys say that justices salaries are requested by the court as a whole and that Goodson cannot say whether she supported the idea of asking for a raise. The lawsuit also says that Goodson recused herself from cases involving donors and gift-givers.

The lawsuit seeks a restraining order to stop the station from airing the ads.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Friday in the case.

EARLIER:

A new political ad declaring Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Hixson, a candidate for the Arkansas Supreme Court, “soft on crime,” has hit the state’s airwaves, attacking the judge for a 2-year-old case in which an imprisoned man’s conviction was overturned.

Hixson responded Monday morning, saying “dark money and special interest groups are trying to buy a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court.”

The ad, which focuses on the case of Ramon Perez, was paid for the the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based group that does not disclose the source of its funding for ads.

Perez was convicted in 2014 of raping a 12-year-old girl in Ward, but his sentence was tossed in early 2016 by a five-judge panel on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, which determined that prosecutors should not have been allowed to play tapes of the girl’s entire interview with police and that her testimony contained inconsistencies that could not be backed up by physical evidence.

Hixson wrote the majority opinion in the decision, which was agreed to by four of the panel’s five judges.

The ad claims that the case was thrown out on a technicality and that Perez is "still on the street threatening children everyday."

"The rule of law and the rights afforded under our constitution are not technicalities," Hixson said in a statement. "The rules apply to everyone and not just the few and the privileged."

The Judicial Crisis Network has also spent money on ads critical of another candidate in the race, Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

The third candidate in the race is David Sterling, a top attorney with the Department of Human Services who touts his “judicial conservatism.”

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