Arkansas Attorney General Loses Lawsuit Over Board of Corrections’ Outside Counsel, Judge Rules

Little Rock, Arkansas – In a recent ruling, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox rejected a lawsuit filed by Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin against the Board of Corrections. Griffin had claimed that the board had improperly hired outside counsel in its lawsuit against the state and Governor Sarah Sanders. The lawsuit came after the board went into executive session to suspend Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri and hired attorney Abtin Mehdizadegan, prompting Griffin to allege a violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Judge Fox’s ruling stated that Griffin had failed to make sufficient efforts to initiate the statutory procedure for the defendants to obtain special counsel. As a result, the judge dismissed the case without prejudice, noting that his ruling would need to be included in any future lawsuits on the same matter. Griffin quickly announced that an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court is being prepared.

This lawsuit is separate from another ongoing case involving the Board of Corrections and two state laws that the board claims violate the state Constitution. The conflict dates back to a press conference in which Governor Sanders criticized the board for rejecting her request to add over 600 additional beds to the prison system. Acts 185 and 659, passed in the 2023 Legislative Session, granted the governor direct authority over leadership at the Department of Corrections.

In response, the Board of Corrections filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of sections of these acts, with Mehdizadegan serving as their outside counsel. The case resulted in a ruling by Judge Patti James, who declared that the two acts indeed violated the state Constitution. Attorney General Griffin is currently appealing this decision to the Supreme Court.

It remains to be seen how these legal disputes will impact the prison system in Arkansas. The ongoing conflicts between the attorney general, the Board of Corrections, and the governor have raised questions about the state’s ability to effectively manage its correctional facilities. As the lawsuits move forward, the future of prison reform in Arkansas hangs in the balance.