LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Lawyers for the state of Arkansas filed notice Tuesday that they will appeal a lower court judge’s temporary restraining order issued last week that halted eight planned executions.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt filed the notice Tuesday afternoon in Pulaski County Circuit Court. She had filed a request Monday asking Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen to dissolve his temporary restraining order, saying the state had not been given proper notice.
The eight executions - the state’s first in 10 years - were scheduled to begin on Oct. 21 and take place on four days, with the last on Jan. 14.
Earlier Tuesday, Griffen denied the state’s request to dissolve the stay. He cited several court filings over the last few months that asked for injunctive relief, noting that the state had mentioned the request for relief in at least one response.
Griffen wrote that he believed the request violated the Arkansas Rules for Civil Procedure that calls for sanctions over frivolous or warrantless filings. He gave the attorney general’s office 14 days to respond.
The notice of the state’s intent to appeal the restraining order to the Arkansas Supreme Court says because Griffen scheduled a hearing for March 1 in the inmates’ constitutional challenges to the state’s execution secrecy law, the stay is actually “a long-term injunction in the guise of a restraining order.”
In her request to dissolve the restraining order, Merritt asked Griffen to move the March 1 scheduled hearing to a date before or on the day of the first scheduled execution, offering dates as soon as Friday.
The state obtained enough of the three lethal drugs in its execution protocol to perform eight executions. One of those drugs will expire in June, another in January 2017 and the third in April 2017.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a brief emailed statement on the notice of appeal Tuesday.
“I am seeking immediate review of the lower court’s actions from the Arkansas Supreme Court,” she wrote.
The appeal appeared in the Arkansas Supreme Court’s online docket late Tuesday, but no documents or written appeals had been uploaded.
The notice of appeal did not include an intent for the state to appeal Griffen’s denial of most of the state’s request to dismiss the inmates’ legal challenge to the secrecy law or the state’s execution protocol. The secrecy law allows the state to keep the source of its drugs including the manufacturer and supplier a secret.
Merritt also filed a request for clarification in circuit court Tuesday, asking Griffen to explain parts of a scheduling order he issued Monday. That order also asked the state to turn over or object to releasing information that would identify the manufacturers, sellers or distributors of the state’s lethal drugs.
Griffen wrote that the state could file a request for a protective order for the information. Merritt wrote that it was unclear if that meant the state could ask for a protective order against releasing the shipping labels, unredacted package inserts, laboratory test results and other information.
She noted that the state no longer has access to some of the information Griffen said must be turned over by Oct. 21 to the inmates’ attorneys and to the court.
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