The Arkansas judge who blocked the state’s April executions on the same day he joined death-penalty protests isn’t shy about sharing his views on hot-button topics.
In the past year, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen has weighed in against President Trump, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, drug laws, the North Carolina transgender bathroom bill, voter ID requirements, Israel, “white Christian nationalism,” and “abusive and homicidal police conduct.”
Meanwhile, Judge Griffen has lauded Black Lives Matter and efforts to aid Palestinians. He urged his Facebook followers to attend a Jan. 29 “community show of support for immigrants and Muslims” in Little Rock.
While his politics fall squarely left of center, the judge has also been known to weigh in against Democrats.
“Can we handle the truth that the Congressional Black Caucus, like almost every other national politician (including politicians across the ideological spectrum) appears to be controlled by the pro-Israeli government lobbying, journalistic, and policy lobby?” Judge Griffen asked in a Sept. 5 post on his Facebook page.
“This also appears to be sadly true for many black religious organizations and leaders [across] the U.S.,” he continued. “The Black Lives Matter movement is a welcome and long-needed alternative.”
SEE ALSO: Judge Wendell Griffen barred from death penalty cases over activism
The 64-year-old judge, who was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2016 without opposition, has defended his decision to attend two Friday death-penalty protests, allowing himself to be strapped to a cot to simulate a condemned inmate about to be executed by lethal injection.
His participation came even though he issued a temporary restraining order the same day blocking the state from carrying out its plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days before the April 30 expiration of a key lethal-injection drug.
“We have never, in my knowledge, been so afraid to admit that people can have personal beliefs yet can follow the law, even when to follow the law means they have to place their personal feelings aside,” Judge Griffen told The Associated Press.
Previously, however, he appeared to hold himself to a different standard, saying on his blog, “I am allowed to comment about controversial matters of public policy as long as the controversy does not involve pending or impending cases before me.”
He made the statement in a post on April 7, 2016, titled, “The Hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton,” in which he stated that he was prohibited from endorsing partisan political candidates.
The judge came under criticism in an appeal filed Saturday by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who said he “cannot be considered remotely impartial on issues related to the death penalty.”
SEE ALSO: Arkansas fights court orders blocking executions as time runs out on lethal injection drug
Five days before issuing the order, Judge Griffen said in an April 10 blog post that “Arkansas officials plan to commit a series of homicides.”
His advocacy drew cheers from death-penalty opponents even as others were stunned by the judge’s willingness to test the boundaries of judicial conduct.
In its Rule 4.1, the American Bar Association holds that judges shall not “in connection with cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of adjudicative duties of judicial office.”
The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson quipped that “based on his precedent, I am sure Judge Griffen and the left will celebrate and cheer on conservative jurists who refuse to recognize gay marriage.”
The order may soon be rendered moot even without the state’s appeal. The drug company that filed the lawsuit moved to withdraw it after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Saturday blocking the executions.
A favorite target of Judge Griffen’s over the last year has been Mr. Trump.
“Donald Trump’s conduct is typical for a sociopath. We should not pretend otherwise,” Judge Griffen said in an Oct. 12 post. “The people who profess moral outrage about his conduct now while ignoring his penchant for bullying, misogyny, racism, bigotry, and economic violence are hypocrites.”
A former pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Judge Griffen still speaks on occasion from the pulpit. In a Feb. 5 sermon at First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, which was posted on his blog, he said the “greatest threat to justice in the United States, and now the world, is heretical white Christian nationalism.”
“Refugees seeking asylum in the US and elsewhere in the world are suffering because of the imperial aspirations of white Christian nationalism,” he said. “Women, persons who are LGBTQ, racial and religious minorities, persons with frail health, and people vulnerable because of militarized law enforcement are threatened.”
Judge Griffen has also called into question the faith of those who profess to be Christians but support Mr. Trump.
“People who supported, voted for, and now cheer President Trump, while professing to be followers of the One who saves, must be challenged as committing heresy,” he said in an excerpt from his book, “The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope” (Judson Press), released in February.
“At best, their claims of allegiance to Jesus are ill-conceived. At worst, their claims of allegiance to Jesus are fraudulent,” the excerpt said.
Judge Griffen added on Facebook, “I consider the policies of President Obama more consistent with the religion of Jesus than those advanced by President Trump, by a long distance.”