Arkansas Judge Blocks Enforcement of Laws Weakening State Board’s Authority, Extending Temporary Restraining Order

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – In a significant victory for the state Board of Corrections, a judge extended her order on Thursday, further blocking the enforcement of two state laws that the board argued violated the Arkansas Constitution by undermining its authority. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Patricia James converted the initial temporary restraining order, issued on December 15, into a preliminary injunction, which will prohibit the enforcement of Act 185 and certain sections of Act 659 until the board’s lawsuit against the laws is resolved.

The laws in question, enacted during last year’s Legislative session, aimed to establish the state’s corrections secretary as being directly under the governor’s authority instead of the board’s. This move prompted the board to file a lawsuit against Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri, with the attorney general’s office representing them as defendants.

According to the board’s lawsuit, these two laws violate Amendment 33 of the state’s constitution, ratified in 1942. Specifically, the amendment prohibits the Legislature and governor from implementing certain changes to boards or commissions overseeing charitable, penal, correctional institutions, as well as institutions of higher learning.

Following the adjournment of the daylong hearing, Abtin Mehdizadegan, the attorney representing the board, expressed his gratitude for the judge’s meticulous examination and approach to the law. Meanwhile, Attorney General Tim Griffin, who was absent from court proceedings, asserted his intention to appeal the ruling. “While I am disappointed in the ruling, I am confident in the work of my exceptional team of attorneys and the case we are preparing on appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court,” Griffin stated in response to a message.

The judge’s decision to extend the order temporarily halts the enforcement of Act 185 and portions of Act 659 until the resolution of the board’s lawsuit against these laws. This ruling is viewed as a crucial development in the ongoing legal battle between the state Board of Corrections and the governor’s office, concerning the separation of powers and the interpretation of Amendment 33 of the Arkansas Constitution.

Key points mentioned in the original article include a judge extending her order blocking the enforcement of two state laws, which the state Board of Corrections asserts weaken the board’s authority. The laws were passed during the last legislative session and sought to put the state’s corrections secretary directly under the governor’s control, rather than the board’s. The board filed a lawsuit, claiming the laws violated the constitution. The judge’s decision to convert a temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction will maintain the block on enforcing the laws until the resolution of the lawsuit. Attorney General Tim Griffin has announced plans to appeal the ruling.