Supreme Court rejects rule to make ballot challenges easier | Arkansas Blog

Supreme Court rejects rule to make ballot challenges easier

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SCOTT TROTTER: Loses bid before Supreme Court to make it easier for voters to challenge ballot issues referred by the legislature.
  • SCOTT TROTTER: Loses bid before Supreme Court to make it easier for voters to challenge ballot issues referred by the legislature.
The Supreme Court has rejected a rule change proposed by lawyer Scott Trotter that would  have made it easier to challenge legislatively-referred constitutional amendments to the ballot, the AP reports.

AP reporter Andrew DeMillo writes that "Trotter’s proposal also would have required justices to consider whether a legislatively referred proposal is intelligible, honest and impartial, which is the standard used for those initiated by voters. He said the court currently uses a much narrower standard: Whether the legislatively referred proposal is a “manifest fraud” on the public."

Trotter is opposed to an amendment placed on the 2018 ballot to limit damages awarded in civil lawsuits, cap attorneys fees and that would give lawmakers the power to write court rules.
The amendment caps damages — both punitive and for pain and suffering — at $500,000 and limits attorney fees to one-third of net damage awards. Opponents say it restricts the right to a trial by jury, sets a low value on lives of children and the elderly, who can't demonstrate economic damages, and encourages neglectful and abusive nursing homes, among others, because the risk of lawsuit is so diminished.

Challenges of ballot measures initiated by voters — a process the legislature has made more difficult — can be heard directly by the state's high court, but measures referred by the legislature must start first in lower courts.

Trotter's proposed constitutional amendment to counter the legislative amendment was rejected in July by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

Trotter took on the fight after a vote on a similar proposal failed to win enough votes in the state Bar Association House of Delegates.


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