5 P.M. UPDATE:
An Arkansas judge has ruled that some TV stations can resume running an out-of-state conservative group's ad criticizing a state Supreme Court justice seeking re-election, and the ruling comes just hours after another judge blocked other stations from airing it.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce on Friday denied a request to prevent northwest Arkansas stations from running the Judicial Crisis Network's ad targeting Justice Courtney Goodson. Pierce was assigned to handle the case after a Washington County judge who had temporarily blocked the ad recused himself following questions about a potential conflict of interest.
Pierce's ruling came hours after another Pulaski County judge ordered several Little Rock-area stations to stop running the ad through the May 22 non-partisan judicial election. Goodson is being challenged by Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson and state Department of Human Services Chief Counsel David Sterling.
Goodson has called the ads false and defamatory.
Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
— The Associated Press
A judge in Pulaski County has ordered that ads critical of high court Justice Courtney Goodson be taken off the air in the state’s largest media market through the Supreme Court election Tuesday.
Circuit Judge Chris Piazza found that Goodson had a likelihood of proving that the ads are defamatory at a later trial.
But he also suggested the justice’s legal team reformat its case once the election is over so that it includes the actual purchasers of the ad.
The decision came after attorneys for Tegna, which owns Little Rock TV station THV11, asked Piazza to dismiss the lawsuit against it. The dismissal request is based on arguments that the broadcasters were not properly given notice of the judge’s complaints over ads being run on TV.
Attorneys for the TV companies argue the ads are protected free speech.
Ultimately, Piazza said, the case has the potential to reach the U.S. Supreme Court because it dealt with “sacred” issues involving free speech.
But, he said he feared irreparable harm was being done in the meantime by the ads, which derided Goodson for gifts received from trial attorneys while serving on the state’s highest court. Goodson has said she recused from all cases involving gift givers and that the ads falsely claimed she had continued to oversee cases involving conflicts.
“There’s something obscene about what’s going on with the type of judicial advertising that’s going on right now,” Piazza said.
After the ruling, Goodson embraced her attorneys with a wide smile.
A related case that involves stations in Northwest Arkansas has a hearing in the same courthouse scheduled for 2 pm.
“I feel like we have the wind in our sails,” Goodson said.