Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen can continue hearing cases involving state defendants, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday while rejecting arguments from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge that the longtime judge is biased against and rude toward her attorneys.
The 4-3 decision by the high court stems from a request Rutledge made in September after her office received an unfavorable ruling in a medical marijuana commission case that had been placed on Griffen's docket.
Rutledge alleged that Griffen had acted rudely to one of her top deputies, Jennifer Merritt, and displayed a "pattern and practice of injudicious conduct" toward her office.
Griffen responded the next week by inviting reporters to his courtroom, where he played an audio recording of the hearing at question. It featured him interrupting Merritt dozens of times during her arguments. Griffen said that while he had a reputation as a tough judge, he disputed the notion that he mistreated any attorneys in his courtroom.
The ruling from the justices on Thursday came without a written decision explanation from any of the four justices in the majority: Chief Justice Dan Kemp and justices Courtney Hudson, Robin Wynne and Josephine Hart.
Three justices, Karen Baker, Rhonda Wood and Shawn Womack, said they would have heard further arguments in the case.
In a statement released Thursday, Rutledge's office continued to assert that Griffen has "blatant and overt bias."
Griffen declined to comment while noting that the underplaying case in the matter still remained in his court.
Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.