The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission voted 5-1 this morning to drop misconduct charges against state Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen over public comments he made on Hurricane Katrina, the minimum wage and other political issues. The commission had said Griffen should keep his mouth shut in public about controversial topics; Griffen argued he had a First Amendment right to speak out. A subcommittee of three commission members had recommended last month that the full commission drop the charges.
Griffen still has a lawsuit pending in federal court challenging the judicial code used to charge him.
UPDATE: Griffen said he's "enormously relieved and grateful" to be done with a process that's stretched on for two years. And he criticized the commission for failing to announce its decision in public, instead sending executive director David Stuart to do the job. Judges and juries in the courtroom have the right to deliberate in private but the obligation to announce their verdicts publicly, he said.
And he'll continue with his lawsuit challenging the judicial code, which he says is so vague that it can be used to "terrorize" judges. "Freedom of speech doesn't mean fear of speech," he said.
Judge Leon Jamison, chair of the commission, declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.