Arkansas Supreme Court will expedite motions in lawsuit over LEARNS Act

FILE — The Arkansas State Supreme Court building is shown in this undated file photo.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has agreed to expedite the briefing schedule for the LEARNS Act case.

In an order Thursday, the court granted a request from Attorney General Tim Griffin to expedite the briefing schedule by about three weeks. Now, the first briefs in the case will be due July 28, with a response due Aug. 11 and a reply by Aug. 18, according to the order.

The lawsuit is a challenge to when the LEARNS Act can take effect, not the law itself, arguing lawmakers erred when passing its emergency clause, a legislative move to make bills take effect immediately.

On June 30, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright sided with the plaintiffs, saying the General Assembly failed to follow the state constitution when passing the LEARNS Act’s emergency clause. Instead, the law will take effect Aug. 1 before the Supreme Court will likely weigh in on the merits of the lawsuit.

“If the court follows the schedule we have requested, then, yes, the case would extend beyond August 1,” Griffin said in a statement Wednesday evening. “The legal issues at stake in this case are of great significance beyond the start date of the LEARNS Act, and it is in the interest of the State that they be fully litigated even if that takes us beyond August 1.”

Griffin, who appealed Wright’s ruling to the Supreme Court, has argued that the lawsuit could threaten other laws with emergency clauses that were passed in the same fashion the LEARNS Act.

According to Article 1, Section 5 of the state’s Constitution, the Legislature must hold a “separate roll call” vote to approve an emergency clause. When passing the LEARNS Act both the state House of Representatives and the Senate held only one simultaneous vote for the LEARNS Act and its emergency clause, following a procedure the Legislature has used for decades.

The attorney general’s office argued since the votes for the LEARNS Act and the emergency clause were recorded separately in the House and Senate’s officials journals, lawmakers followed the Arkansas Constitution’s requirement for a “separate” vote.

The briefing schedule is something that both parties agreed to, with Ali Noland, the attorney for the plaintiffs, filing a motion Thursday also asking the court to expedite the appeal process.