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Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp recused on Thursday from a hearing a lawsuit that is attempting to throw Issue 1 off of the Nov. 6 ballot.

The suit, brought by retired Pulaski County Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey, alleges that Issue 1 illegally "log-rolls" several proposed constitutional changes -- a cap on attorneys' fees, limitations on lawsuit damages and a re-working of the courts' rule-making process -- into one amendment.

Humphrey's legal team scored a victory at the circuit court level earlier this month when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce ordered that no votes for the ballot question be counted.

The case was immediately appealed to the Supreme Court, prompting questions about whether any of the justices would recuse.

At the Arkansas Bar Association's annual conference in June, Kemp gave a speech saying he would vote against Issue 1. He urged others to oppose the amendment because it would give the Legislature the final say over court rules. The Supreme Court now has the ultimate authority over those rules.

Kemp qualified his remarks by saying that his views on Issue 1 did not indicate how he would rule if the proposed constitutional amendment became subject to a lawsuit in his court. Some attorneys speculated he would recuse.

In addition, Kemp's daughter works for the law firm Wright Lindsey Jennings, representing Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce President Randy Zook as an intervenor in support of Issue 1. Kemp has typically recused from past cases involving the firm.

Kemp did not offer a reason for recusing in a short letter to the court announcing his decision.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will be tasked with appointing a special justice to fill in for Kemp.

"Recusals are at the discretion of the individual justices," Hutchinson said in a statement. "I expect to be able to act on this special appointment within the next week."

The first briefs in the case are due Oct. 22, unless a motion to expedite is approved.

Metro on 09/14/2018

Print Headline: Justice bows out of hearing suit on amendment; Issue 1 appeal at high court

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  • Ericedwlawcom
    September 14, 2018 at 8:09 a.m.

    The question is will other justices who took campaign contributions from the Chamber of Commerce, nursing homes or medical organizations recuse themselves. I believe they should. Additionally, Justice Womack should recuse as he openly lobbied the legislature for passage of Issue No. 1. The cannon of judicial conduct say a judge should avoid the "appearance of impropriety". To hear this issue when you took campaign money from groups supporting it or actively lobbying for its passage does more than provide an appearance.

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