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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The court battle between Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ administration and the Arkansas Board of Corrections reached a new level on Monday.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Davis Fox dismissed a case against the Board of Corrections filed by Attorney General Tim Griffin. In his ruling, Fox said Griffin had not acted within the 30-day window he had been given to “reach an accommodation” with the board’s hiring of its own lawyer.
Griffin had argued in a Dec. 15 filing that the board had no standing to hire a lawyer of its own. The board had hired attorney Abtin Mehdizadegan in its dispute with the Sanders administration over housing additional inmates in the state prison system.
The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Griffin could re-file the case if he does reach some agreement with the board, the judge stated. Griffin’s office “refused to communicate” with the board after the judge’s initial accommodation order.
The dispute between the board and the administration began in November when Sanders, joined by Griffin and then-Secretary of Corrections Joe Profiri, held a press conference taking the board to task for not allowing the full expansion requested by the three state officials.
The board approved of 166 additions but ruled against another 500 additions, stating that more could not be added to due to low staffing at prisons.
Since then, a court order affirmed the board as the final say in state prison operations as a constitutional right. This second fight between the board and Sanders’ office came after lawmakers passed two acts last year that moved hiring authority for the secretary and two other top agency heads from the board to the governor.
The board ultimately dismissed Profiri, who was adding inmate capacity despite the board’s ruling before his dismissal and has since been hired by Sanders as a special advisor.
The Monday ruling will not be the final court ruling in this matter.
“We are preparing an immediate appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court,” Griffin said.