by Max Brantley
I don't have the Supreme Court decision yet, but I do have an e-mail from Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen saying the Arkansas Supreme Court has agreed with his argument that proceedings against him by the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission should be in public.
The commission is considering punishment of Griffen for speaking publicly on such issues as civil rights and the Bush administration's bungling of Hurricane Katrina relief. The decision was unanimous and written by Justice Robert Brown. Griffen said it was decided, not on First Amendment or due process grounds, but on Amendment 66 to the Arkansas Constitution, which established the disciplinary body.
The Supreme Court apparently decided the hearing should be open because Griffen had wavied confidentiality and the commissoin had offered no legitimate reason the proceeding in the specific case should be closed, except as a precedent for future cases. The commission has said it has no witnesses to produce who should be protected by confidentiality at the probable cause hearing. The opinion noted, too, that under Arkansas law the probable cause hearing could result in a minor punishment such as an admonishment, short of a formal charge that a judge can contest in an open hearing.