by Tyler Hale
A Pulaski County judge plans to rule soon on a November ballot proposal that limits damages in lawsuits and places a cap on attorneys’ fees.
Pulaski County Judge Mackie Pierce, of the Sixth Judicial District, said he will determine whether to keep Issue 1 on the ballot or disqualify it during a court session today. A retired circuit court judge is currently suing to challenge the ballot measure.
Judge Marion Humphrey, a retired Pulaski County Circuit Judge, is bringing the lawsuit to remove the proposed amendment from the November ballot. According to Humphrey, the Issue 1 measure combines separate proposals into a single measure.
In addition, Humphrey claims the amendment will violate the separate of powers between the legislative and judicial branches.
Earlier this month, Pierce denied a motion for an injunction that would have prevented the state from tallying vote for the amendment. Pierce said Humphrey did not demonstrate how he would suffer harm if the injunction was not issued.
If passed, Issue 1 will limit attorneys’ fees in civil actions to 33 and 1/3 percent of the net recovery, while also limiting the amount of punitive damages and non-economic damages that can be awarded in civil lawsuits. Issue 1 holds that the Legislature can adjust the limitations on damages based on inflation and deflation.
The ballot measure also proposes that the Legislature can, with a three-fifths (3/5) vote of each chamber, “amend or repeal a rule of pleading, practice or procedure” handed down by the state Supreme Court and adopt its own “pleading, practice or procedure.”
Several groups have already filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission to financially support or oppose Issue 1. The organizations supporting the measure include the Arkansas Trucking Association, Arkansas Medical Society, Arkansans for Jobs and Justice, Pulaski County Medical Society, Arkansas Health Care Association and the Arkansas Hospital Association.
The organizations opposed to the measure include Defending Your Day in Court, Protect AR Families, Liberty Defense Network and Family Council Action Committee.