Conservative panel set for 8th Circuit hearing on same-sex marriage case | Arkansas Blog

Conservative panel set for 8th Circuit hearing on same-sex marriage case


JUDGE LAVENSKI SMITH: Arkansas judge on marriage case appeal.
  • JUDGE LAVENSKI SMITH: Arkansas judge on marriage case appeal.
The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments for 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 12, in Omaha for the appeal of the federal lawsuit in which Judge Kristine Baker struck down the Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage.

According to the court website, the panel that will hear the case are Judges Roger Wollman of Sioux Falls, S.D., Lavenski Smith of Little Rock and Duane Benton of Kansas City.

Wollman was appointed by Ronald Reagan and Smith and Benton by George W. Bush.

Lavenski Smith is a protege of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who appointed him to the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Public Service Commission. Huckabee is an ardent foe of same-sex marriage and gay rights generally. Smith's past includes stints as a teacher at John Brown University, the conservative religious school, and as executive director of the Rutherford Institute, seen as a conservative defender of civil liberties, particularly on religious issues.

The three comprised the panel that blocked implementation of a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in Nebraska early in March. That case will be joined with Arkansasm, Missouri and South Dakota cases.

Smith sat on a case in 2005 in which the 8th Circuit overturned a lower court ruling that the Nebraska ban was unconstitutional. The issue has been revived by changing U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

From an article about Benton's confirmation:

As a Missouri judge, Benton did not hide his faith.

A long-time Sunday School teacher at his home church – First Baptist Church of Jefferson City – Benton displayed a Bible on a table in the entryway to his office in Jefferson City. During work breaks he was often seen reading a Bible he carried in his briefcase.

A lawyer blogger notes that the panel could have been worse. The 8th Circuit carries an 8-3 GOP edge in appointees, for one thing. The blogger predicts a ruling favoring the bans, which would make it only the second among many on the other side among the circuits. The blogger, David Schraub, offers this locally relevant squib:

Judge Smith (G.W. Bush) is in the middle, and has shown a bit of an iconoclastic in discrimination cases in the past. That said, Judge Smith is rumored to have his eye on a Supreme Court nomination if a seat opens up during a Republican administration. And in any event, it would take a more than a bit of iconoclasm for Judge Smith to side with the plaintiffs here, given his voting record and general social conservatism.

The Supreme Court could rule before the 8th Circuit finishes its work, however.

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