Opinionated Judge's Suit Against Discipline Body Tossed

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A federal judge has dismissed a judge’s lawsuit against the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission for prosecuting him over remarks he made outside the courtroom.

U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled Oct. 24 that the suit by appeals judge Wendell Griffen was moot because the commission had dropped charges against him in September, the Arkansas Times reports. Meanwhile, an Arkansas Bar Association task force is readying proposed changes to the state’s judicial ethics code to allow judges more freedom to speak out, the Arkansas Times reports in a separate story.

The commission had charged Griffen over his remarks on current events, including his criticism of the Iraq war, the government response to Hurricane Katrina, and President Bush’s nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice.

Griffen, who is also a minister, contended the commission violated his First Amendment rights to free speech, religion and association. He also wanted the court to strike down portions of the judicial conduct code that restricted judicial speech. He says he may appeal.

“I’m an ordained minister, speaking in church, about public policy and morality,” he told the newspaper. “Can a judge or a judicial candidate be punished for comments in a Sunday school class? What are the standards?”

“Can a judge be in a skit in the gridiron that pokes fun at a politician? Or a special interest? Or another judge?” he asked.

A hat tip to How Appealing, which posted the stories.

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