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Public interest law

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You've perhaps heard already about the lawsuit filed Monday by the Arkansas Public Law Center, with civic activist Kathy Wells of Little Rock as plaintiff, challenging the general Arkansas legislative practice of submitting undocumented requests for monthly expense reimbursements.

Most legislators admit these are thinly disguised salary supplements and justify them as allowable under federal IRS rules. The lawsuit contends, however, that the Arkansas Constitution prohibits payments beyond salaries except for documented expenses. It named two defendants – a House Republican, Ann Clemmer of Bryant, and Senate Democrat, Jerry Taylor of Pine Bluff – but the suit is aimed at all members filing the undocumented claims.

Who is the Arkansas Public Law Center? It's a new nonprofit, with a seven-member board headed by Little Rock lawyer Michael Lauro. It also has Arkansas Times ties – board members Ernest Dumas, our columnist, and senior editor Max Brantley. Other Board members are Brent Bumpers, Lee Lee Doyle, Theresa Beiner and Patty Barker. Lawyers for this suit are Bettina Brownstein and John Burnett, both with plenty of ACLU work on their records, along with private practice.

The Center has intervened previously in a federal open courts case. Does it have other projects under consideration? Stay tuned, we are reliably informed.

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