Rut­ledge re­jects pro­posal to ban le­gal fee caps

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - JOHN MORITZ

A Lit­tle Rock at­tor­ney’s pro­posal to write broad gov­ern­ment re­vi­sions and pro­tec­tions for lawyers into the Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tion was dis­missed as likely to be be­fud­dling to vot­ers by the at­tor­ney gen­eral on Fri­day.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge’s opin­ion, re­leased shortly be­fore the close of busi­ness Fri­day, was an­other set­back in a push to have the amend­ment placed on the Novem­ber 2018 gen­eral elec­tion bal­lot, where it would com­pete with a pro­posal al­ready set be­fore vot­ers by the state Leg­is­la­ture.

Lawyers assem­bled in Hot Springs last month for the Arkansas Bar As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing fell three votes short of a three-quar­ters ma­jor­ity needed to back the mea­sure, writ­ten by at­tor­ney Scott Trot­ter.

Un­de­terred, and with a few tweaks, Trot­ter in­de­pen­dently sub­mit­ted his pro­posal to the at­tor­ney gen­eral along with lan­guage to be printed on the bal­lot de­scrib­ing the amend­ment to vot­ers.

Trot­ter said Fri­day he plans on work­ing through part of his cur­rent va­ca­tion to sub­mit a new draft in about a week.

The lan­guage at is­sue — a short pop­u­lar name fol­lowed by a longer bal­lot ti­tle — must get ap­proval from the at­tor­ney gen­eral be­fore it can be cir­cu­lated for sig­na­tures on pe­ti­tions and even­tu­ally printed on bal­lots.

The Arkansas Supreme Court also scru­ti­nizes how ini­ti­ated bal­lot ques­tions are pre­sented to vot­ers. Last year, the jus­tices or­dered no votes be counted for two pro­pos­als they deemed had been in­ac­cu­rately worded.

Among its var­i­ous pro­vi­sions, Trot­ter’s pro­posal would pre­vent the Leg­is­la­ture from set­ting caps on dam­ages or at­tor­neys’ fees in law­suits, im­pose stricter cam­paign fi­nance rules, in­crease the thresh­old for the Leg­is­la­ture to over­ride a gover­nor’s veto and pro­hibit the prac­tice of law­mak­ers di­rect­ing money to pet projects.

The amend­ment was writ­ten to com­pete with one ap­proved for the 2018 bal­lot this year by the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture, which voted for a pro­posal de­scribed as “tort re­form.”

The Leg­is­la­ture’s pro­posed amend­ment, Se­nate Joint Res­o­lu­tion 8, would place caps on at­tor­neys’ fees and “non-eco­nomic” dam­ages in law­suits, while giv­ing the Leg­is­la­ture more con­trol over the writ­ing of court rules.

Un­like pub­licly backed bal­lot pro­pos­als, the Leg­is­la­ture doesn’t need the at­tor­ney gen­eral to ap­prove the word­ing of its bal­lot pro­pos­als, though they could still be sub­ject to a court chal­lenge.

The name Trot­ter sub­mit­ted to Rut­ledge was “An Amend­ment Pre­serv­ing the Right of Ju­ries to Set Dam­ages, Re­quir­ing Dis­clo­sures in Elec­tions, Ad­dress­ing Sep­a­rate Pow­ers of the Three Branches of Gov­ern­ment, and Im­pos­ing Lim­its on the Leg­is­la­ture.”

Rut­ledge, a Repub­li­can, found prob­lems through­out the name — her con­cerns fre­quently used the words “par­ti­san” and “mis­lead­ing” — as well as the 824-word bal­lot ti­tle.

Get­ting into the finer de­tails of Trot­ter’s word­ing, Rut­ledge’s opin­ion went as far as not­ing that his use of the word “pro­posal” ap­peared to con­flict with the word’s def­i­ni­tion in the dic­tio­nary.

Trot­ter said Fri­day he dis­agreed with Rut­ledge’s opin­ion, but he would take her crit­i­cism un­der ad­vise­ment as he re­vises the lan­guage.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.