Arkansas AG seeks removal of judge from state matters; he is already banned from capital cases

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gavel with the arkansas state flag

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Tuesday asked the state supreme court to remove a Pulaski County judge from all cases involving her office.

Rutledge claimed that Judge Wendell Griffen “routinely erupts in anger” when state attorneys are trying to do their jobs and “routinely bullies” the lawyers by threatening them with sanctions, report the Associated Press and Law360.

According to the emergency petition, Griffen “regularly yells” at assistant attorneys general, refuses to allow them to make a record or preserve arguments for appeal, imposes unfair requirements such as shortened time, and “belligerently argues” with state attorneys and witnesses. When the attorneys try to do their job, Griffen treats their advocacy as personal attacks on his authority, the petition said.

The state supreme court has already barred Griffen from hearing capital cases because he participated in a demonstration against the death penalty. On Thursday, the state supreme court denied Griffen’s request to resume hearing the cases in an order that treated his request as a petition for rehearing that had been filed too late, report the Associated Press and Arkansas Online.

Rutledge filed the emergency petition claiming bias by Griffen in a case involving an unsuccessful applicant for a medical marijuana cultivation license. The state had argued it had sovereign immunity from the suit filed by the Carpenter Farms Medical Group, but Griffen refused to toss the case.

“Judge Griffen has a long history of unprofessional, improper and biased conduct in cases involving the attorney general’s office and cannot be considered remotely impartial in cases involving the attorney general’s office,” the petition said.

A lawyer for Griffen, Mike Laux, denied any bias by the judge in an email to the Associated Press. “Obviously, Judge Griffen denies the allegation of any bias against the AG’s office or any other lawyer and stands on his court record,” Laux said. “The problem for the AG’s office is the infirmity of its arguments, not the mean old judge.”

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