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Ross v. Martin

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 27, 2016

COL. MIKE ROSS, RET.; MARION HUMPHREY; JAMES BROOKS; PATRICK ADAM JEGLEY; MARTHA DEAVER; AND THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT AR FAMILIES PETITIONERS
v.
MARK MARTIN, ARKANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE RESPONDENT CHASE DUGGER AND DR. STEPHEN CANON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HEALTH CARE ACCESS FOR ARKANSANS INTERVENORS

          Brian G. Brooks, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brian G. Brooks; James, Carter & Priebe, LLP, by: Jeff Priebe; and Walas Law Firm, PLLC, by: Breean Walas, for petitioners.

          AJ Kelly, Deputy Secretary of State & General Counsel, and Andrés Rhodes, Associate General Counsel, for respondent.

          Kutak Rock LLP, by: Jess Askew III, David L. Williams, Frederick H. Davis, and Dale W. Brown (Fayetteville); and Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for intervenors.

         PETITION PREVIOUSLY GRANTED; COUNTS I & II MOOT.

          JOSEPHINE LINKER HART, Associate Justice

         This is the second part of a bifurcated case concerning a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution with the popular name: "An Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits." As noted in Ross v. Martin, 2016 Ark. 340, petitioners Col. Mike Ross, Marion Humphrey, James Brooks, Patrick Adam Jegley, Martha Deaver, and the Committee to Protect AR Families filed an original action in this court pursuant to article 5, section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution, as amended by amendment 7 to the Arkansas Constitution, for an order to invalidate a proposed initiated constitutional amendment (the amendment), either by striking it from the ballot or by enjoining the counting of the votes. The petition asserted three bases for relief: (I) the sponsors failed to comply with mandatory canvasser certification laws; (II) the sponsors failed to submit the requisite number of verified signatures; and (III) the amendment's ballot title is insufficient. On September 9, 2016, we granted a motion to bifurcate this case and appointed a special master to make findings on counts I and II. We allowed count III, which challenged the sufficiency of the ballot title, to be submitted directly because sufficiency of the ballot title is decided by this court as a matter of law. Cox v. Daniels, 374 Ark. 437, 288 S.W.3d 591 (2008). This opinion addresses counts I and II.

         This court has original jurisdiction of this case pursuant to Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-5(a) (2016); see Richardson v. Martin, 2014 Ark. 429, 444 S.W.3d 855. Rule 6-5(a) provides that this court has original jurisdiction in "extraordinary actions required by law, such as suits attacking the validity of statewide petitions filed under amendment 7 of the Arkansas Constitution." Id., 444 S.W.3d 855.

         A total of 84, 859 signatures are required to place the amendment on the ballot for the November 8, 2016 general election. The sponsors of the amendment submitted 131, 687 signatures to the secretary of state. The secretary of state determined that there were 93, 102 valid signatures. After bifurcation, counts I and II required factual development. We appointed Judge J.W. Looney as special master to make findings on the issues presented.

         After taking testimony and viewing exhibits, the special master submitted a written report. The report's summary and conclusion stated as follows:

1. The failure of the Sponsor to certify to Respondent Secretary that criminal background checks had been completed on each paid canvasser as required by A.C.A.§ 7-9-601(b)(3) could be a material defect and disallow the counting of all signatures under A.C.A. § 7-9-601(b)(5) which is a "do not count" instruction."
2. Solicitation of signatures by paid canvassers before their names were submitted to the Respondent Secretary resulted in 1825 signatures that should not be counted under A.C.A. § 7-9-126(b)(3)(A).
3. The failure of the sponsor to maintain statements of eligibility on 6 canvassers as required by A.C.A. § 7-9-601(e) would disallow 47 signatures.
4. If the uses of third party criminal background reports by the Sponsor and its agent are considered a violation of A.C.A. ยง 7-9-601(b)(1) then 10, ...

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