Arkansas Judge Tells Attorney General Griffin to Resolve Corrections Claims Within 30 Days

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An Arkansas judge has threatened to dismiss the attorney general’s lawsuit against the state Board of Corrections, suggesting that the case could be dismissed if the government is unable or unwilling to reach a resolution.

According to FOX News, in a Tuesday hearing, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox said that the Office of the Arkansas Attorney General should not have filed a Freedom of Information Act-related complaint against the Board of Corrections without first arranging for a special counsel to represent the panel.

Griffin, adds FOX News, had earlier filed a lawsuit against the Board of Corrections, claiming that it violated state law by hiring a private attorney to represent its interests in a dispute with Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

However, Fox appeared to take issue with Griffin pressing a claim against another state agency—an agency that Griffin would ordinarily be tasked with defending, were its dispute with any other entity.

“By using his discretion to apparently not invoke the special counsel procedure, [Griffin] is apparently attempting to deliberately deprive his state clients of any legal representation of any nature or kind,” Fox wrote in his ruling.

“The case, at this juncture, from a procedural standpoint, is that the attorney general has sued his own clients, in violation of his duties and responsibilities mandated to him by the Arkansas General Assembly,” Fox wrote.

Griffin, though, has maintained that his office is acting within the limits of its authority, and has already planned an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“The court’s order states that the Board of Corrections is clearly ‘entitled to legal counsel,’” Griffin said in a statement. “There is no dispute about that here. The dispute is whether the board has followed the legal requirements to obtain outside counsel.”

Griffin had taken the unusual step of filing a formal complaint against the Board of Corrections after it sought to subvert a recently-passed law.

The law, notes THV-11, effectively stripped the panel from exercising any authority over its own leadership by permitting the governor’s office to have the final say in the hiring—and firing—of the state corrections secretary.

Shortly after the bill’s enactment, Sanders appointed Joe Profiri—a former official in Arizona’s corrections system—to head the Board of Corrections, which retaliated by promptly suspending Profieri.

The panel then requested a restraining order, claiming that the Sanders administration was attempting to force through a plan to add over 1,000 temporary beds to Arkansas prisons—a plan that the department says risks the safety of staff and inmates alike.

“Absent relief, [the Board of Corrections] will suffer immediate and irreparable harm because Defendants caused additional beds to be added to inadequate prison facilities,” a Pulaski Circuit Court judge wrote, ruling in favor of the board and granting the restraining order.

Griffin has since said that his office is continuing to review the board’s actions.

“We are reviewing the board’s actions but remain troubled that they continue to violate the law regarding compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and the unauthorized hiring of an outside counsel,” Griffin said.

Sources

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