The Arkansas Supreme Court announced Thursday a little something I wish to paraphrase generously, indeed embellish, but only for worthy purposes of candor and clarity.
The court is dealing in chaff and somebody needs to get in there and pick out the wheat.
So here goes:
The court said that it did not want to rule on the same-sex marriage appeal properly before it, and would not, most likely.
The court said we couldn’t make it rule even if we tried.
It said its judgeship positons are matters of popular election and that the people of Arkansas don’t much like same-sex marriage, which the judges might be forced by, you know, justice and stuff, to permit.
So the eminent justices said they simply will concoct lame, indeed nonsensical, excuses not to opine on Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s stayed ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. They said they will stall until the U.S. Supreme Court handles the issue perhaps by June and makes moot the state case and gives everybody in Arkansas someone to blame, probably Barack Obama, who has nothing whatsoever to do with the court case, but so what?
Justice Paul Danielson, the real jurist in the group, dissented. Presumably he favors going ahead and deciding a case that’s been fully argued and pending for months while the other judges have been hiding under their desks with their robes pulled up over their heads.
Justice Rhonda Wood, who is newly elected to the court and didn’t hear the case last year, announced separately that she couldn’t find any record of those proceedings anywhere, mainly because she hadn’t looked, and was not going to participate in the case at all, even in any comical stalling tactics such as these otherwise undertaken by her colleagues, because . . . well, she doesn’t want to. And we couldn’t make her if we tried.
To be clear: Wood is disqualifying herself not only from the original appeal that she didn’t hear, but from this new lame-brained notion to start a whole new case right now on her watch on the question whether to start over on that thing last year she didn’t hear.
You don’t see? All right, let me break it down further: She don’t want to.
CORRECTION: Turns out I didn’t see either, which would be funny if not about me. Judge Wood tweets to explain what her letter to Chief Justice Jim Hannah plainly says: She disqualified only from voting on whether to create this new case to invite arguments about whether to rehear the original case. That’s because it affected her. She is not disqualifying from the original case or any rehearing of it. She says she is ready to hear the case itself, if the opportunity arises. She says she would have dissented from this latest action to create a new case on the question of whether to rehear, except – again — she disqualified on that, because it was about her. Check Justice Wood’s twitter feed to see if that’s still wrong. If this is unclear, apportion blame among me for the description and the court for the silliness. )
Let’s run through this narrative: Piazza ruled nearly a year ago that same-sex marriage was to be permitted in Arkansas. After a few days of gay weddings, the ruling was stayed for appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Sen. Jason Rapert, as God’s own legislator, got the Legislative Council to adopt an unconstitutional resolution presuming to tell the court that the legislative branch would darned sure appreciate it if the judicial branch would overturn this abominable ruling by this judge whom Rapert calls “Pee-at-zah.”
The appeal was fully briefed and orally argued in early November, and the justices, by usual procedure, would have gone into conference and decided it and issued a ruling by the end of the term in December.
But they didn’t. So then two newly elected judges joined the court in January. So then the Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the court to consider the question of whether to start over and rehear the case with the newly constituted court.
So the court said that was a swell question, right up its alley, and asked for briefs, which have now been submitted.
What specifically happened Thursday was that the court said it was now opening a whole new case on this issue of whether to have new oral arguments on this matter, and that, since it was creating a whole new case, the parties would need to supply fresh briefs for that case on the now-recycled question of whether to conduct start-over oral arguments.
It is unclear whether lawyers will be allowed simply to photocopy their existing arguments on that question.
Most likely, the Supreme Court will open a third case on that question.
There may now be a fourth case on the matter of the columnist’s contempt of court.
I would remind you that former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel once said this court seems result-oriented, meaning as opposed to blind justice-oriented. And I would remind that retired Justice Don Corbin wrote a dissenting opinion in a case that offered as a little aside that McDaniel might be right.