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Full 8th Circuit will again consider Arkansas’ Israel boycott pledge law

by Jaime Adame | June 10, 2021 at 3:53 p.m.
The federal courthouse in St. Louis is shown in this June 3, 2011, file photo. The courthouse is the main office of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, as well as the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP/Jeff Roberson)

A full panel of appellate judges will rehear arguments about Arkansas’ law requiring most state vendors to pledge not to boycott Israel, granting a petition from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and vacating an earlier court ruling that found the law in violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

The legal dispute is over a 2017 Arkansas law that added a pledge to not boycott Israel as a part of vendor contracts with the state of $1,000 or more. The state law does not require a pledge from a contractor that “offers to provide the goods or services for at least twenty percent (20%) less than the lowest certifying business,” the law states.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered a rehearing in the high-profile fight over the law.

The Arkansas Times, a news publication in Little Rock, and attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union sued in December 2018 to block the law. The ACLU has challenged similar laws in other states.

A federal district court judge dismissed the lawsuit, but a three-judge panel from the 8th Circuit in February reversed the decision.

In April, 16 states signed onto a legal brief backing Rutledge’s push for a rehearing. All were represented by Republican attorneys general. Rutledge is also a Republican.

No date has been set for the new hearing.

More details in Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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