Appeals court judge wins battle

(November 20, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- The Arkansas Supreme Court today struck down an admonishment of a state appeals court judge who publicly criticized the University of Arkansas. The high court said a judicial-conduct standard on which the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission based the letter of admonishment to Judge Wendell L- Griffen "intrudes on legitimate free speech." The court also said the standard of conduct is not specific enough about what might constitute an official legislative visit. The rule prohibits a judge from appearing at a public hearing before an executive or legislative body or office, except on matters concerning the law. The state contends Griffen violated the judicial code against lobbying the Legislature. He urged members of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus to use budgetary purse strings to express displeasure with what he sees as a lack of progress at U-A in diversifying the faculty and administration. Griffen argued that the admonishment violated his right to free speech.