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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this April 17, 2018 file image from video provided by KTHV-TV, a death penalty protester outside the Arkansas governor's mansion in Little Rock prepares to tie rope around Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen who is laying on a cot in protest of executions. A disciplinary panel dismissed ethics charges Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, against the Arkansas Supreme Court's justices over their decision to prohibit Griffen from hearing any execution-related cases. The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission voted unanimously to dismiss the charges. (KTHV/TEGNA Inc. via AP, File)

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen this week requested that the entire Arkansas Supreme Court recuse from considering his petition to again hear death-penalty cases, a workload that the high court stripped from the judge in 2017.

The filing, submitted Wednesday, is the latest in Griffen's long-running feud with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is on its annual summer recess, and none of the justices has responded to the motion.

Griffen's disqualification from hearing cases involving capital punishment is a result of his participation in an anti-death penalty protest held in front of the Governor's Mansion in April 2017.

During the protest, Griffen, wearing a white suit and hat, lay strapped to a cot. The protest occurred hours after Griffen issued a judicial order that threatened to halt a series of state executions planned that month (four of the eight executions were carried out).

The protest occurred on Good Friday, and Griffen argued that he was simply exercising his religious beliefs. The Arkansas Supreme Court, however, stripped Griffen of his right to hear all future death-penalty cases and referred the matter to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.

In turn, Griffen filed his own complaint with the judicial watchdog, claiming that the justices violated his rights to due process in hastily stripping cases from his docket.

The disciplinary commission, however, dismissed both complaints. Griffen's attempts to seek redress in federal courts -- all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court -- were also unsuccessful.

Griffen filed another complaint with the Arkansas Supreme Court last month seeking to have death-penalty cases return to his court.

In his motion Wednesday, Griffen and his attorneys argued that the justices' impartiality in hearing that request could be reasonably questioned, and he made additional claims that their decision to strip him of the cases was racially and politically motivated.

"The Justices allowed public clamor and comments by certain white members of the Arkansas General Assembly ... to influence their judicial conduct and judgment," Griffen's motion stated.

All of the members of the Arkansas Supreme Court are white. Griffen is black.

If any of the justices recuse, special justices will have to be appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Chief Justice Dan Kemp did not respond to a text message Thursday asking if he or any other justices planned to recuse from the matter.

Metro on 07/12/2019

Print Headline: Recuse, judge asks of total high court


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Archived Comments

  • jklivin748gmailcom
    July 12, 2019 at 2:05 p.m.

    At least he just stood up for his rights and human rights freedom of speech & the constitution of United States of America . Racism has got to quick-stop everywhere around the nation. I commend him for taking a stand !

    July 12, 2019 at 2:30 p.m.

    ...except that he is a judge. Justice is supposed to be "blind" - impartial. Griffen has demonstrated that he is not impartial when it comes to capital punishment. He is not an ordinary citizen. He is in, by his choice, a special group that should not be displaying personal preferences regarding law.

  • obbie
    July 12, 2019 at 2:48 p.m.

    MBAIV is right. On a similar note, has anyone noted what Griffen is covering with his hat?

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 12, 2019 at 2:50 p.m.

    Justice is supposed to be blind and impartial.
    but it's not.
    Having "justices" whose main contributions have been to limit freedoms as a example of nonbias is a very weak argument.
    My opinion as I've said before, Judge Griffen has a right to his opinion in public forum, as a judge elected he is paid to distribute a equal measure of law with the patronage of his constituents.
    This is all very legal. If a jury sentences a person to death Griffen can do nothing about it.
    If a prosecutor recommends the death penalty, Griffen ultimately will have little say as to its acceptability, the burden of proof and the seriousness of the crime. He is a judge and thats just a job.