Tuesday, June 30, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Do we need a high court?

You may or may not care about the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on several monumental issues, from legalizing same-sex marriage to upholding Obamacare, but at least the highest court in the land made cogent arguments in those landmark cases.

Contrast that with the Arkansas Supreme Court, which sat on a same-sex marriage appeal for seven months and did nothing. The frightened justices hoped and prayed the U.S. Supreme Court would rule before the state court and let them off the hook.

Most of the justices on the state high court hold few principles of their own: They’ve been bought by special interests — from nursing home owners to trial lawyers and others — who helped them get elected. The Arkansas Supreme Court is just a parody of jurisprudence sold to the highest bidders, many of them shady operators who are defendants in criminal cases that could be appealed to the high court.

Presumably, most of the justices who are beholden to those defendants would have to recuse themselves and a temporary court would be appointed for those appeals. Or voters could repeal the state Supreme Court and save us from further embarrassment.

The tireless Max Brantley, who conducts the indispensable Arkansas Times Blog, revealed last Sunday just how corrupt our state high court has become in recent years. Brantley has gained access to its proceedings, which show a pusillanimous court reluctantly weighing its options. According to Brantley, the court was ready to side with Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza, who last year declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

But, later, the justices swung the other way and voted to overturn Piazza’s ruling. Reluctant to announce their decision, they waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule Friday morning in favor of same-sex marriage. But, rather than saying later that morning that their decision no longer mattered, the state Supreme Court waited until late Friday, when everyone had gone home, to declare the case moot.

Brantley caught the filing at 5:15 p.m. Friday on his way home and has had a field day ridiculing our tremulous justices. The rest of the Little Rock media missed the decision. The state newspaper seemed unaware until it ran a cartoon Tuesday by John Deering, who at least reads the Arkansas Times Blog.