Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting Petitioners' request for a preliminary injunction and finding that the entirety of Ark. Code Ann. 7-9-601(b) is unconstitutional, holding that the circuit court did not abuse abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction.Petitioners filed a complaint arguing that section 7-9-601(b)'s requirements requiring sponsors of initiatives to obtain federal background checks from the Arkansas State Police are unconstitutional and should be enjoined. The circuit court granted Petitioners' request for a preliminary injunction, finding that the entirety of section 7-9-601(b) is unconstitutional and enjoining Respondents from applying its provisions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Petitioners demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits and that irreparable harm would result in the absence of an injunction. View "Thurston v. Safe Surgery Arkansas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court declaring Bobby Lee Jones ineligible to hold the office of Justice of the Peace, holding that the trial court erred by not providing Jones with a hearing on the propriety of taking judicial notice of an order in a prior case.In 2006, Jones ran for Justice of the Peace for Phillips County, District One. The court entered an order (2006 order) concluding that Jones was a convicted felon and was therefore ineligible to hold public office. In 2020, Jones again ran for Justice of the Peace for Phillips County, District One. In response, the State brought suit seeking a declaratory judgment that Jones was ineligible to hold office because of his prior felony convictions. During trial, the trial court took judicial notice of the 2006 order, determined that res judicata applied, and concluded that Jones was ineligible to hold public office. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred by not providing Jones with a hearing on the propriety of taking judicial notice of the 2006 order. View "Jones v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court vacating the finding of the Arkansas Ethics Commission that Susan Weaver violated Ark. Code Ann. 7-6-228(c)(1) when a magazine published her campaign advertisement without a required disclosure during Weaver's 2018 judicial campaign, holding that substantial evidence did not support the Commission's decision.Faulkner Lifestyle published an ad of Weaver's candidacy without statutorily required financial disclosure language. The Commission found that section 7-6-228(c)(1) did not require a culpable mental state but, if it did, Weaver violated the statute by acting negligently. The circuit court vacated the finding, holding that the Commission erred in concluding that the standard of proof for a violation of section 7-6-228(c)(1) is strict liability and that insufficient evidence supported the Commission's finding that Weaver was negligent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence did not support the Commission's conclusion. View "Arkansas Ethics Commission v. Weaver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in this election dispute, holding that because the election at issue had already occurred, the case was moot.In this action, Appellant, a qualified voter, challenged the ballot title of two proposed constitutional amendments referred by the General Assembly to the voters of the State of Arkansas for the November 3, 2020 general election. On October 26, 2020, the circuit court granted Appellee's motion to dismiss with prejudice. The next day, Appellant filed his notice of appeal, asserting that the circuit court erred in declining to overrule Becker v. Riviere, 641 S.W.2d 2 (Ark. 1982), and its progeny. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the case was moot and that none of the exceptions to mootness applied. View "Kimbrell v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Democratic Party nominee Jimmie Wilson had been convicted of crimes that disqualified him under Ark. Const. art. IV, 9 from serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives and finding that Wilson's presidential pardon did not restore his eligibility to sit as a representative, holding that the circuit court did not err.In 1990, Wilson entered a guilty plea in federal court to five misdemeanor offenses. In 2001, Wilson received a presidential pardon from President William Jefferson Clinton. In 2020, Wilson was selected as the Democratic Party nominee to run in the November 3, 2020 election for the House District 12 seat. On October 15, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that Wilson was disqualified from serving in the Arkansas General Assembly. The circuit court ruled that Wilson was ineligible to serve in the Arkansas House of Representatives due to his convictions and that his presidential pardon did not restore his eligibility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly concluded that Wilson's presidential pardon did not restore his eligibility to sit as a representative in the Arkansas General Assembly. View "Gray v. Webb" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting Appellees' emergency petition fro declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus declaring David Pruitt ineligible to run for public office, holding that the circuit court did not err.On February 27, 2020, Pruitt filed as a candidate for the office of alderman in the November 3, 2020 election. Appellees filed an emergency petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus, alleging that Pruitt was ineligible to hold public office because he had been found guilty of voting more than once in an election in violation of Ark. Code Ann. 7-1-103(a)(19)(A), and therefore, his name may not be placed on the ballot. The circuit court granted Appellees' petition for declaratory judgment and writ of mandamus, finding that Pruitt had been convicted of certain infamous crimes in violation of Arkansas Election Law, which disqualified him from running for public office, and that Pruitt's expungement did not restore his eligibility to hold public office. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) subsection (a)(19)(A) is a misdemeanor offense related to the election process and constitutes an infamous crime as contemplated by Ark. Const. art. V, 9; and (2) Pruitt's sealing of his record did not restore his eligibility to hold public office. View "Pruitt v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting a motion to dismiss filed by the Arkansas Secretary of State Appellant's complaint seeking to strike two proposed constitutional amendments, Issue 2 and Issue 3, from the general election ballot on November 3, 2020, holding that the circuit court did not err.On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court erred in ruling that the ballot titles were sufficient and that Issue 3 did not violate Ark. Const. art. XIX, 22. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) article 19, section 22 governs the ballot titles of Issue 2 and Issue 3; (2) the circuit court properly ruled that Issue 2 and Issue 3 comply with the requirements of article 19, section 22; and (3) the circuit court did not err in ruling that Issue 3 did not violate article 19, section 22. View "Steele v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Stay Strong, Status Quo's appeal of a certified election petition, holding that there was no error on the part of the circuit court.In this election petition, Stay Strong, Status Quo, a local-option ballot-question committee, and Bevans Family Limited Partnership (together, Stay Strong) opposed Van Buren County Clerk Pam Bradford's certification of a local-option petition sponsored by Local Option Ballot Question Committee Let Van Buren County Vote (Sponsor). The circuit court dismissed the certification appeal without holding a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by dismissing the appeal without first taking evidence or holding a hearing; (2) the circuit court did not err by concluding that the petition form was valid; (3) the circuit court did not err in finding that there were sufficient signatures for certification; and (4) Stay Strong's argument for reversal based on the timing of its statutory appeal was unavailing. View "Stay Strong, Status Quo v. Bradford" on Justia Law

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In this election action, the Supreme Court affirmed as modified the decision of the circuit court dismissing David Tollett's complaint in intervention with prejudice, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in dismissing Tollett's complaint in invention because of his failure to comply with the rules of civil procedure.Lisa Ramey filed an amended complaint for the issuance of a writ of mandamus, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief alleging that Jimmie Wilson filed to be the Democrat Party's candidate for state representative but was ineligible to serve as a member of the General Assembly. Tollett filed a motion to intervene, along with a proposed complaint in intervention. The circuit court dismissed Ramey's amended complaint for a lack of standing. The court also dismissed Tollett's complaint due to his failure to serve Wilson with either his motion to intervene or his proposed complaint in intervention. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that dismissal was warranted but that the circuit court's decision should be modified to a dismissal without prejudice. View "Tollett v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part and dismissed in part an original action brought by Petitioners challenging the sufficiency of a state-wide petition to refer Act 579 of 2019 to the people of Arkansas on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot, holding that the petition was insufficient because it did not comply with Ark. Code Ann. 7-9-601(b)(3).Act 579 expanded the scope of the practice of optometry in Arkansas to permit licensed optometrists to perform certain procedures. Safe Surgery Arkansas (SSA), a ballot-question committee, filed with the Secretary its petition containing more than 84,000 signatures. The Secretary certified that the petition met constitutional signature requirements. Thereafter, Petitioners filed the instant original action alleging four counts regarding the insufficiency of the petition. The special master found that SSA lacked sufficient valid signatures to qualify the petition for the ballot. The Supreme Court granted in part and dismissed as moot in part the petition, holding (1) SSA's petition was insufficient because it failed to certify that its paid canvassers had passed criminal background checks; and (2) the remaining challenges to the petition were moot. View "Arkansans for Healthy Eyes v. Thurston" on Justia Law