Judiciary

Judge who blocked ads targeting Arkansas justice recuses, along with every other judge in his county

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Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

A special judge is being sought to hear a suit filed by Arkansas Justice Courtney Goodson and her re-election campaign after every judge in Washington County recused from the case.

One who recused himself is Judge Doug Martin, who initially ordered several television broadcasters to stop airing ads targeting the justice, Arkansas Online reports.

Martin recused himself Wednesday after Arkansas Online reported that Martin’s wife had received income for legal work at Keil & Goodson, the law firm where Goodson’s husband, John Goodson, is a partner.

Martin’s wife, Amy, donated $50 to Goodson’s campaign for chief justice in 2015. And Doug Martin’s campaign received a donation in 2014 from Fayetteville lawyer W.H. Taylor, whose gifts to Goodson were criticized in one of the attack ads.

Circuit Judge Stacey Zimmerman wrote a letter notifying state court administrators about the recusals and requesting that Chief Justice Dan Kemp assign a special judge to hear the case.

Martin had ordered ordered several television broadcasters to stop airing ads on Monday, the same day Goodson and her campaign filed suit. He left his temporary restraining order in place when he recused himself Wednesday.

Goodson’s lawyers had sought Martin’s recusal after the newspaper report. Tribune Broadcasting Fort Smith, which owns two television stations, is seeking dissolution of the restraining order, Arkansas Business reports.

Goodson’s suit claims the attack ads are “false, misleading and defamatory.” The banned ads say Goodson accepted pricey gifts from lawyers and sought a raise of $18,000 a year. The lawsuit says the court as a whole makes requests regarding salaries, and Goodson has recused herself from cases involving donors and gift-givers.

The Judicial Crisis Network had financed the banned attack ads. “You can’t make this stuff up,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the organization, said in a statement. “Judge Martin should be standing up for free speech instead of trying to protect his campaign donor and buddies.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas noted that the Judicial Crisis Network does not disclose its donors. But its executive director, Rita Sklar, said Martin’s order banning the ads “is clearly unconstitutional given that it involves the pre-emptive suppression of political speech on a matter of public concern—where the First Amendment’s protections are strongest.”

“The remedy for false speech is more speech—and in this case, sunshine,” Sklar said. “Speech that expressly attacks or supports the election of a candidate for judicial office can and should be subject to financial disclosure requirements that give the public timely and useful information about the sources of funds and an opportunity, prior to the election, to evaluate the possible influence of those funds.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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