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Issue 1 disqualified from ballot; Arkansas ethicist disputed initiative being characterized as 'pro-life'

Sep 7, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Issue 1, a ballot initiative which limits damages awarded in civil lawsuits, has been disqualified Sept. 6 by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce.


In his ruling, Pierce said the proposal lawmakers put on the November ballot violates the state’s constitution by combining different measures into one amendment.

The proposed amendment caps noneconomic and punitive damages awarded in lawsuits and also places limits on attorneys’ contingency fees.

Additionally, Pierce ordered state election officials to not count votes cast on the proposal.

Secretary of State Mark Martin said the office plans to appeal the ruling, citing the expectation do so by the Arkansas Legislature, which voted to place Issue 1 on the ballot in 2017, according to media reports.
Proponents of Issue 1 expect the measure to be OK’d by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“I am confident that our Supreme Court will ultimately let the people decide,” said Carl Vogelpohl, campaign manager for Arkansans for Jobs and Justice, amppob.com reported. “Because this case began in the lower court, today’s ruling is simply a step in the process of presenting the case to the Supreme Court.”

However, David Couch, the attorney who had brought suit seeking to have Issue 1 disqualified on behalf of former Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Marion Humphrey, offered praise for the ruling, telling the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said lawmakers erred in 2017 when they voted to place the measure on the ballot as a single amendment.

"If they want to do all the things they are trying to do in Issue 1, they've got to do it one at a time," Couch said.
Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, which receives partial funding from the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, stated in an op-ed piece in the Arkansas Baptist News Aug. 23 that he was “concerned that some in the debate (over Issue 1) are positioning it as a “pro-life” issue. It is decidedly not a pro-life issue; it is an economic issue and a legal issue.”

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