Judicial appearances, Rhonda Wood and Courtney Goodson edition

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 06:50 AM PST

Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood's party pix from Gov. Asa Hutchinson's inaugural ball drew a critic on Twitter who drew me into the conversation. Happy to join in.

The Tweet above drew this response, on which my Twitter account was tagged, and then drew Wood counter-response.

Having been included in the Twitter thread, I chimed in:

As with Judge Griffen, an authorized action isn't always wise when you will sit on cases related to the person you've publicly praised
In case you miss the point: Justice Wood joined her Supreme Court colleagues in rushing to punish Judge Wendell Griffen for taking part in a death penalty protest on a day on which he'd ruled earlier in a case about a drug used in executions. As I've said many times before, I believe Judge Griffen has every religious and free speech right to speak publicly about issues of importance to him, such as the death penalty. But I also think judges are often better served by shutting up. When they speak on controversial and political issues, they give rise to a public perception that those beliefs might influence their judicial decisions, no matter how much the facts support those decisions.

The Supreme Court often hears cases of importance to the governor of Arkansas. Might we now have cause to think Rhonda Wood would put a thumb on the scale of justice for someone she worked for and announces publicly she's "proud to have as governor"? It's not unreasonable, if her own ruling in the Griffen case is a guide. The same could be said for Wood's decision to sit on cases involving nursing home magnate Michael Morton, who, thanks to help from her friend, the accused felon Gilbert Baker, was the primary engine in her fund-raising campaign to be elected to the Supreme Court.

While we're on the subject of inaugural party pix and justices hobnobbing with politicians.

And also:

Food drive set in Little Rock for furloughed federal workers

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 06:23 AM PST

Is this sad, or what? Clinton National Airport has announced a two-day food drive for the benefit of unpaid workers at the airport.

City and airport officials will announce the drive at a news conference at 1 p.m. today.

Many federal employees and their families face additional struggles as the partial government shutdown approaches one month. Little Rock leaders will address needs and urge residents to donate during Little Rock Cares, a two-day, communitywide donation event to be held Tuesday, January 22 and Wednesday, January 23 to benefit all federal employees in need.
And there are poor people in federal housing projects facing eviction.

And there are government contractors put out of work, though not on a government payroll who've lost hours they'll never regain.

Federal courts are on the verge of shutdown.

Economic development plans pending before numerous government agencies? On hold.

And lots, lots more.

Donald Trump is holding them all hostage to money for a wall that Mexico was supposed to build that isn't the thoughtful solution to border security in the first place.

I'll provide details on how to contribute later today.

Arkansas legislature prepares new attacks on Constitution, abortion

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 06:10 AM PST

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Jeannie Roberts reported
 today on some of the plans for attacks on the U.S. Constitution and women's medical rights this legislative session. I'd like to add a few points relative to the legislation.

As he's been shouting from his demagogue's perch, the leading contender for worst Arkansas legislator, Sen. Trent Garner, plans among other impediments on women to make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion for a woman whose fetus might have Down syndrome.

This is cookie-cutter anti-abortion legislation that has already been passed in other states where men like to control women's medical rights.

Relevant point: A similar law in Ohio was blocked by a federal lawsuit last year.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday blocking the new law from going into effect next week while the case continues. Black wrote in a 22-page order that House Bill 214, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich in December, violates Supreme Court opinions that say a state can't prohibit a woman from making the decision to end a pregnancy before the fetus is viable.

"Here, Ohio's new law wrongfully does just that: it violates the right to privacy of every woman in Ohio and is unconstitutional on its face," Black wrote.
The case is on appeal, but unless Roe v. Wade falls in the worst imaginable way, this law won't survive, here or in Arkansas.  Courts have also stopped similar laws elsewhere, including Indiana, where the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision. Indiana is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trent Garner and Co. are happy to spend the state's money to defend their effort to prescribe how women live their lives.

If such a law succeeds, there's no stopping any other pretext Trent Garner might offer for limiting women's reproductive rights.

Noted: An anti-abortion Republican legislator has proposed a bill to allow pharmacists to distribute birth control pills without a prescription. He describes it as a discouragement to abortion. True enough. Now if he'd also encourage the legislature to resume Medicaid support for Planned Parenthood, some $50,000 that supported family planning medical services to avoid abortion. He also could write his president, Donald Trump, and try to get him to back off the override of Obamacare rules that mandate free health insurance coverage for birth control pills. This non-prescription contraception legsilation has been introduced in other states by Republican politicians coincidentally facing criticism for rigid anti-abortion stances. Fact is, as Trump and other actions show, there IS resistance to even birth control pills on the right wing. Rep. Aaron Pilkington's no-Rx pll bill isn't guaranteed smooth sailing.

For now, the Arkansas ACLU declined to comment about measures proposed for the 2019 legislature. They'll be heard from. Meanwhile, the Ohio ACLU said this about Down syndrome-related legislation:

A woman should be able to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy in consultation with those she trusts. HB 214 inappropriately inserts politics into private medical deliberations, and would discourage open, honest communication between a woman and her doctor.

It is not the government's role to decide what can and cannot pass through a woman's mind before deciding to have an abortion. This type of ban sets a dangerous precedent, and opens the door for politicians to further intrude into women's personal health decisions.
Garner also wants to legislate required reporting of complications that arise after abortion. This, too, is cookie-cutter legislation that has been challenged elsewhere. Though his bill nominally doesn't require reporting of the names of patients and doctors, it's an obvious aim at stigmatizing abortion and raising concerns about a lack of privacy. There is no similar mandatory reporting law covering more medically risky childbirth. Court challenge of a similar law is also pending in court elsewhere. One has been stopped in Indiana, but cleared in Idaho, with appeals ongoing.