LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge is refusing to recuse himself from a lawsuit filed by a former colleague against Arkansas Supreme Court justices who disqualified him from death row cases.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen asked U.S. District Court Judge James Moody Jr. to step aside from the case. Moody refused on Thursday, saying he was confident he could live up to his judicial oath “to fairly and impartially preside over cases,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Griffen’s lawsuit accuses the seven justices of violating state and federal laws by disqualifying him in April from presiding over cases involving the death penalty or Arkansas’ lethal-injection protocol.

The disqualification came days after Griffen, also a Baptist minister, attended a prayer vigil outside the governor’s mansion to oppose executions. Earlier that day, he blocked the use of an execution drug, halting the state’s efforts to begin a series of executions.

Griffen argued that Moody should recuse himself from presiding over the case because they once worked alongside each other. He noted that two other federal judges had recused themselves.

Moody noted that both of those judges “had a different connection with the parties in this case.” He also said his interactions with Griffen had been minimal.

“In reality, we worked in the same building and shared the same job title,” Moody said. “We never consulted with each other on any case. We did not share a docket. We worked on different floors. I can recall no more than half a dozen times that I came into contact with (Griffen) while we worked at the courthouse together from 2011 through February 2014.”

The case has been set for trial in January 2019.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com