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Judge Suing Court Over Death Penalty Reassignment

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 18, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When somebody sues a supreme court over a decision, it's a knee-jerk reaction to think that somebody is a fool.

After all, you don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. Would you believe, you don't sue a court to be a judge?

That's what Judge Wendell Griffen is doing. He is suing the Arkansas Supreme Court for the right to do his job. But in this battle between judges, somebody is playing the fool.

Dead Serious

For it to go this far, you would think it was a life-and-death matter. And for Griffin, it really is.

The state supreme court disqualified him from presiding over any civil or criminal cases involving the death penalty after he granted a temporary restraining order to stop the state from using a lethal injection drug and later participated in a demonstration against the death penalty. The high court said judges should act to ensure "public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity and confidence."

The issue came up in Griffin's court because McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc. alleged in a civil case that Arkansas obtained the drug illegally. Griffin ruled the company showed "its property rights had been violated," and was "based on well-established principles of contract and property law."

Griffen, who is also a Baptist minister, opposes the death penalty on moral and religious grounds. However, his lawyers say he is impartial in the courtroom and the Supreme Court violated his constitutional rights.

Controversial Issues

The case has been going on for months, but Griffen has been active in controversial matters for years. In a blog post before issuing the restraining order, he said "Arkansas officials plan to commit a series of homicides."

In the latest development in his case against the Arkansas Supreme Court, Griffen asked the trial judge to recuse himself. Griffen said he and Judge James Moody, Jr., used to work together.

Moody declines to recuse himself, saying that he and Griffen worked at the same courthouse but didn't have any cases together. They had the same job title, but didn't work together.

"We never consulted with each other on any case," Moody told the Associated Press. "We did not share a docket."

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