LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas' attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to reassign cases involving her office from a judge who has been prohibited from handling execution cases, accusing him of regularly being biased against her staff.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office on Tuesday requested that the court reassign cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. He was prohibited from handling execution cases in 2017 after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug. Rutledge asked that the order on execution cases be expanded to include all civil cases involving her office.
The filing accused Griffen of regularly yelling at attorneys from Rutledge's office when they appear in his court. Rutledge's filing said the judge "routinely bullies" assistant attorneys general by threatening them with sanctions.
"When state attorneys attempt to do their jobs and advocate for their clients, Judge Griffen routinely erupts in anger, treating the lawyers' advocacy for their clients as personal attacks on his authority as the trial judge," the filing said.
An attorney for Griffen denied any claims of bias.
"Obviously, Judge Griffen denies the allegation of any bias against the AG's office or any other lawyer and stands on his court record," Mike Laux, an attorney for Griffen, said in an email. "The problem for the AG's office is the infirmity of its arguments, not the mean old judge."
Rutledge made the request after Griffen last week wouldn't dismiss the appeal of an unsuccessful applicant for a medical marijuana cultivation license, rejecting the state's argument that it had sovereign immunity. Griffen had also given the state until Sept. 23 to respond to questions and requests to authenticate documents from the applicant in the case.
Laux said Griffen expressed the basis for his ruling and had directed the AG's office to two recent Supreme Court rulings that contradicted the state's position.
In April 2017, Griffen was photographed wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions as he lay on a cot outside the governor's mansion. Before the demonstration, Griffen had blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug over the claims that officials misled a medical supply company.
Griffen in June asked the Supreme Court to allow him to handle execution-related cases again.
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