Rutledge Co-Leads Brief to U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Free Speech and Religious ConscienceTue, Aug 22, 2017
Says, the court ‘must recognize that the actions of this florist in Washington are protected by the Constitution’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has co-led a 14-state coalition in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to grant review and protect the freedom of speech and religious conscience rights of citizens, specifically a Washington florist named Barronelle Stutzman.
“The U.S. Supreme Court must recognize that the actions of this florist in Washington are protected by the Constitution,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It would be unlawful and cruel to compel someone to express ideas that violate their deeply held-religious beliefs even after working to refer the customer to another business.”
Rutledge led a coalition of states in support of Stutzman in the Washington State Supreme Court in September 2016.
Stutzman declined to create a floral arrangement for and oversee its placement at a same-sex wedding based on her religious beliefs. She was subsequently sued by the State of Washington under its discrimination law and unfair business practices act, despite referring the longtime customer to other florists. Stutzman has served this particular client for years, considered him a friend and remains willing to serve him in the future. She simply believes based on her religious beliefs that she could not participate in, and use her artistic talents to create a flower arrangement for, the same-sex marriage.
The Washington State Supreme Court maintained that flower arrangements are not speech and that her referral to other florists was irreverent. The 72-year-old grandmother, who is defending against this legal action, now faces fines and legal fees estimated at $2 million, which could put her out of business.
As the states note, “government having the ability to order individuals to speak in a manner that violates their conscience is fundamentally at odds with the freedom of expression and tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints that this nation has long enjoyed and promoted.
Rutledge is co-leading this brief along with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. They are joined in the brief by the attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, along with Governor Matthew Bevin of Kentucky and Maine Governor Paul LePage.
Rutledge Continues Effort to Fight Labor Department’s Persuader RuleFri, Aug 18, 2017
Nationwide injunction in place; DOL should fully rescind
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is urging the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to rescind the Obama-era’s Persuader Advice Exemption Rule. The rule, which is enjoined nationwide because of a 10-state coalition’s lawsuit, led by Rutledge and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, would force disclosure of confidential information, communication and relationships between small businesses and their outside counsel in labor relations matters, has been found unlawful.
“The previous administration was posturing to its political base instead of protecting small businesses when it altered the Persuader Rule,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This rule was about giving union-side attorneys an unfair advantage in litigation and nothing else. I am urging the department to follow the law, respect more than 50 years of legal precedent and fully rescind the Persuader Rule.”
The Obama administration’s reinterpretation of the Persuader Rule upended five decades of established federal labor policy and would have made it more difficult and expensive for small businesses to obtain legal advice. Rutledge’s lawsuit kept the Department from enforcing the new rule.
DOL’s proposal to rescind the Persuader Rule requires a 60-day public comment period before the Department can take final action. “Given that the Persuader Rule has the effect of regulating a traditionally state-regulated domain, and that Congress has made no such indication, the Department should rescind the rule,” the 17-state letter writes.
Led by the Texas Attorney General, Rutledge is joined on the letter by the Governors of Kentucky and Mississippi, as well as the attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Rutledge Calls on Congress to Amend Sex Trafficking LawThu, Aug 17, 2017
Says, ‘It is paramount that state and local law enforcement have the power they need to take down human and sex traffickers’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined 49 of her colleagues in a bi-partisan letter urging Congress to amend the sex trafficking law and affirm that all law enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight trafficking.
The attorneys general are asking that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) be amended to clarify that states, localities and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online.
“It is paramount that state and local law enforcement have the power they need to take down human and sex traffickers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Congress has many large and important issues to tackle, but this is a small change that will have an enormous impact on the safety and wellbeing of children across the country.”
The addition of just a few words to the CDA proposed in this letter will help to ensure that citizens and children are effectively protected throughout the entire country, in all courts. “Federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking. Those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children – state and local law enforcement – must have clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes,” the attorneys general write.
The intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online. It was never was intended to place facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement. However, according to the attorneys general, the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children. In some cases, courts have misinterpreted certain provisions of the CDA as providing immunity from prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as Backpage.com, that promote and profit from human trafficking.
Led by the Attorney General of Florida and the District of Columbia, Rutledge is joined on the letter by her colleagues from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Rutledge Wins at 8th Circuit Allowing Termination of Planned Parenthood from Medicaid Program to ProceedWed, Aug 16, 2017
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today released a statement following the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit’s decision vacating preliminary injunctions a federal judge issued and allowing Arkansas's termination of Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid Program to proceed.
“The 8th Circuit rightfully agreed with me in my defense of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s decision to terminate the contract with Planned Parenthood after videos surfaced allegedly showing Planned Parenthood could be involved in selling aborted fetal body parts for profit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Court found that Planned Parenthood and the three patients it recruited could not contest in federal court Arkansas’s determination that a medical provider has engaged in misconduct that merits disqualification from the Medicaid program. All patients should have access to ethical, quality and responsible health care, and should never be beholden to a company that is only seeking to protect its profits.”
Rutledge Announces Conviction of Independence County Woman for Medicaid FraudTue, Aug 15, 2017
Says, ‘Not only was the patient harmed by not receiving care, but this type of fraud harms the entire Medicaid system’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the conviction of a Batesville woman for Medicaid fraud. Karen Wilson pleaded guilty in Pulaski County Circuit Court and was sentenced to one year of probation and was ordered to pay a $600 fine and court costs. Wilson paid $2,061 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund prior to entry of the plea.
“Karen Wilson routinely signed timesheets, seeking to be paid for care she never provided,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Not only was the patient harmed by not receiving care, but this type of fraud harms the entire Medicaid system. My staff of attorneys and investigators are working to investigate and prosecute this fraud across the state.”
Wilson, 48, of Batesville pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud, a Class A misdemeanor. Wilson billed the Medicaid program for services not rendered from June to August 2016.
The case was initiated by a referral from the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and was prosecuted in coordination with the 6th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.
To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in residential care facilities, complete the online form at ArkansasAG.gov, call the Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud hotline at (866) 810-0016 or email email@example.com.
Rutledge Joins Brief in Support of the Display of the 10 CommandmentsFri, Aug 11, 2017
Says, ‘U.S. Supreme Court must weigh in and offer much-needed clarity’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined a 23-state coalition in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Bloomfield, New Mexico’s Ten Commandments monument on its city hall lawn. Earlier this year, a divided 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision upholding a district court’s order to remove the monument.
Rutledge is urging the justices to hear the case and decide in favor of the New Mexico town.
“Displaying the 10 Commandments, which many acknowledge as a significant basis for American law, is perfectly constitutional,” said Attorney General Rutledge. "However, this is an area of the law that is not being applied consistently and the U.S. Supreme Court must weigh in and offer much-needed clarity.”
Guidance from the Court in City of Bloomfield v. Felix is important because various circuit courts are using different standards to evaluate whether Ten Commandments monuments such as the one in New Mexico are constitutional. “Announcing a reliable metric for determining the constitutionality of these displays would provide helpful guidance to a large number of lower court, governmental actors and potential plaintiffs,” the state officials write.
The Arkansas General Assembly passed a law in 2015 requiring the installation of a 10 Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds.
Led by the Texas Attorney General, Rutledge is joined in the amicus brief by the attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, along with Governor Matt Bevin of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Maine Governor Paul LePage.