Citing the threats made by members of the state legislature, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Arkansas marriage equality case have asked state Supreme Court justices who plan to seek reelection to recuse themselves from hearing the appeal of their win in a lower court.
The attorneys, Cheryl Maples and Jack Wagoner, said they didn’t think any Supreme Court justice would fail to be impartial. But they said recent legislative actions present the possibility of the public perceiving a loss of impartiality. Judge Chris Piazza struck down the state’s statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. His decision has been appealed, but its effectiveness stayed. As it now stands, it might be decided by November, depending on whether delays are requested. In the meanwhile, the Legislative Council has adopted a resolution sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert that said Piazza had overreached in his decision. It called on the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and to nullify any of the roughly 500 marriages that occurred in the week before his ruling was stayed. The resolution, hand-delivered to the court, said the legislature would pursue legislative remedies to prevent the popular will from being thwarted by “judicial activism.” Legislators have said this could include proposing for the ballot a judicial recall mechanism in 2016.
Of the seven justices, two have announced their retirement at the end of this year. Three others would (somehow) lose some retirement benefits should they run again. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who opposes marriage equality, could appoint temporary justices to fill in for any who recuse themselves. (Tipped by JMG reader Luis)