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Some justices asked to recuse from same-sex marriage case

A group of same-sex couples who challenged Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage argued Monday that members of the state Supreme Court who plan to seek re-election should recuse from hearing an appeal in the case.

The couples filed a motion arguing that state legislators have used “intimidation tactics” to try to influence the outcome of the state’s appeal of Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza’s May 9 ruling that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has stayed Piazza’s ruling while the case is on appeal.

In June, the state Legislative Council, the main legislative body that meets during the interim between sessions, voted to adopt a resolution by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, urging the Supreme Court to overturn Piazza’s ruling and accusing him of violating his oath to uphold the Arkansas Constitution. The resolution also said legislators would seek remedies to prevent future “judicial activism.”

The plaintiffs noted that resolution in their motion Monday, as well as a report by the Arkansas News Bureau in which Rapert was quoted as saying Piazza “may end up being the poster child for judicial recall in this state.”

“The passage of Interim Resolution 2013-004, the language contained in the resolution, the delivery of same to this court, as well as public statements threatening ‘judicial recall,’ are all intimidation tactics intended to sway this court’s ultimate decision in this case,” the same-sex couples argued in their motion.

The plaintiffs said they were not arguing that the justices could not be impartial, but that a ruling for the state would be perceived as having been influenced by the Legislature, so any justice on the court who plans to seek re-election should recuse to avoid the possibility of creating that impression.

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