Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray said Thursday that she will decide in about a month whether a lawsuit aimed at curtailing the authority of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to intervene in out-of-state litigation can go forward.
Gray heard arguments Thursday on whether the lawsuit should be dismissed and concluded the proceeding by saying she had reached some conclusions about the future of the case.
But Rutledge’s lawyers surprised Gray with a last-minute claim that the courts do not have the authority to restrict the attorney general’s power, so the judge said she needed the sides to address that question for her in writing over the next two weeks.
A group of eight Arkansas voters is suing Rutledge, the state’s first elected woman attorney general and a Republican gubernatorial candidate, accusing the 44-year-old Batesville native of putting her personal political agenda ahead of her duties to the people of the state and using public money to do so.
The 3-month-old suit challenges the legality of Rutledge’s participation on behalf of the state in unsuccessful attempts before the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the legality of Pennsylvania voting procedures and to delay the Electoral College from voting to certify the national presidential election and discount the votes from four states won by Democratic President Joe Biden in that race.
The suit also argues that Rutledge has illegally involved herself and Arkansas in the defense of the National Rifle Association from federal litigation brought by the New York attorney general to dissolve the pro-gun organization over corruption claims.
The lawsuit is a “politically motivated” vendetta by critics who have brought a “frivolous” suit with little proof and even less legal authority, Assistant Attorney General Michael Mosley said, arguing for dismissal. The state constitution and statute combine to give Rutledge “broad authority” to represent the interests of Arkansas residents, such as fair elections and gun rights, he told the judge.
Claims that she’s done anything wrong are “smoke and mirrors” accusations based on “speculation and [legal] theory, not evidence,” Mosley told the judge.
“They have no case … beyond their say-so,” he said.
Plaintiffs attorney Richard Mays told the judge that Rutledge has used her position and its financial resources to promote her political goals, help her Republican colleagues and raise money for her campaign for governor when state law shows that the attorney general cannot do what she’s done by wading into lawsuits in other states.
As the state’s top lawyer, the attorney general can only join that outside litigation when a state actor, like a public official, state board or agency, is directly involved, as described in Arkansas Code 25-16-703, Mays said.
The plaintiffs are Elaine Dumas, Pratt Cates Remmel Jr., Gale Stewart and Jackie Simpson, all of Little Rock; Michael Dougan of Jonesboro; Glen Hooks of North Little Rock; Robert Leflar of Fayetteville and Harvey Joe Sanner of Des Arc.