SUPREME COURT SMILING HERE: But reports indicate they are not so happy in private.
The Arkansas Supreme Court's
5-2 decision to delay the execution of Jack Greene for a hearing on his mental competency drew criticism from pro-death-penalty legislators, who also gave more indications of unpleasant working conditions at the Supreme Court.
Sen. Bart Hester,
a Republican, is one example.
If I had to guess where Hester's "word" is coming from, I'd guess Justice Shawn Womack,
the hyper-political former Republican state senator from Mountain Home. As he usually does, he joined Justice Rhonda Wood,
another hyper-political Republican, in voting against a stay of Greene's execution. (But I'm reminded that Hester also is related to another member of the court.)
Kemp was elected to succeed the late Chief Justice Jim Hannah,
who'd lost administrative control of the court to a rump majority of justices — Wood, Jo Hart, Karen Baker and Courtney Goodson. That division
led to an embarrassing mishandling of the same-sex marriage case and a variety of administrative changes directed by a court majority rather than the chief justice, who is given administrative duties both by Constitution and statute. Kemp has tried to reassume some of those prerogatives, with mixed results.
The atmosphere remains toxic. Howard Brill,
the mild-mannered UA law professor who spent a year filling the chief justice's seat until a successor to Hannah could be elected, opened up a bit about it in an interview with Ernest Dumas
for the archives of the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Relations are so strained that the Court has apparently dispensed with the long custom of scheduled weekly conferences to discuss pending cases. Instead, votes are cast by e-mail.
Some more comment on yesterday's decision, including one legislator's response to Hester.
Incidentally, I just took a look at Justice Wood's Twitter account (she blocks me, but I have my ways) and it includes a notice of an opening for a law clerk. The reference to death cases was interesting. I wonder if it's proving a disincentive to some applicants.
Had to chuckle at some dialogue that occurred on Wood's Twitter stream about this ad, given current circumstances: