Pulaski Co. circuit judge seeks restoration of judicial powers

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – On Monday, June 25, 2019, Judge Wendell Griffen, Circuit Judge for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Arkansas, formally petitioned the Arkansas Supreme Court for a restoration of his judicial powers, specifically, his democratically-bestowed authority to “hear and decide civil and criminal cases involving the death penalty, capital punishment and the method of execution” in the State of Arkansas.

Judge Griffen’s petition (see link to read below) follows the dismissal with prejudice of the ethics complaint filed against him by the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, JDDC Case No. 17-171, et seq., In re. Hon. Wendell Griffen–a baseless, politically driven suit in the first instance–bottomed out after more than 26 months of rudderless plodding. Judge Griffen’s petition invokes the Arkansas Constitution’s Amendment 80 which gives Arkansas circuit courts authority over capital punishment and death penalty cases in the State. His Rule 1-2(a)(6) petition makes the following arguments:

  • 1. There is literally no case for discipline because the dismissal of Judge Griffen’s ethics case eliminates any conceivable basis to punish him. Thus, while the lifetime ban on his hearing capital cases was always unwarranted, it is now completely unsustainable.
  • 2. The punishment is demonstrably unfair. Judge Griffen’s punishment for religious protest–which was certainly lawful act–is facially unjust when compared to the wrist-slaps received by white judges who broke the laws they swore to uphold. One of these judges drove drunk through a police sobriety checkpoint, led police on a high-speed chase and then hurled profanities at the officers whose lives he had just jeopardized with his criminal behavior. His discipline? He was barred from hearing DWI for eight (8) months. Judge Griffen gets 26 months and counting…
  • 3. Judge Griffen’s removal from capital cases violates the Hunt Decree, which requires that judges serving in the majority black voter judicial subdistricts shall exercise the same powers of all other judges.
  • 4. His removal from capital cases harms Arkansas citizens. Each day Judge Griffen is barred from hearing capital cases is another day that voters and citizens in his subdistrict are deprived of their choice of a fully empowered circuit judge who they elected to hear all civil and criminal cases, including death penalty cases. 

Since Judge Griffen’s lifetime ban was hastily instituted back in April 2017, seventeen (17) capital cases have bypassed him and gone instead to other judges. Enough is enough. The Supreme Court must restore Judge Griffen’s judicial powers immediately. Based on prior discipline review petitions, we expect the Supreme Court to respond to Judge Griffen in approximately 45-60 days.

Click here to read the petition.

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