RRT Sends Request for Voluntary Withdrawal of Ad to the Republican State Leadership Committee

18-May-2018

Rapid Response Team

Charged by the Arkansas Judicial Campaign Conduct & Education Committee, Inc.

P.O. Box 141475, Little Rock, AR 72223

Members: Audrey Evans (chair), Hal Bass (vice chair), Elizabeth Andreoli (secretary), Danyelle Walker, Roy Ockert Jr.

REQUEST FOR VOLUNTARY WITHDRAWAL OF ADVERTISEMENT

May 17, 2018

To: Republican State Leadership Committee (“State Leadership”)

Subject: May 16, 2018 Complaint Supreme Court Election

Complaint filed by: Linda Napper on behalf of Judge Bart Virden Campaign

Dear Republican State Leadership Committee:

The Rapid Response Team (“RRT”) received a complaint fromJudge Bart Virden’s Campaign (“Virden Campaign’) stating that the Republican State Leadership Committee is sponsoring television advertisements and that contain false or misleading information about Judge Bart Virden. The RRT follows its Rules and Procedures when reviewing complaints. We have applied these Rules and Procedures to the Complaint filed by Virden’s Campaign. The documents referenced in this letter are available in the public domain and attached to the Complaint.

We state the specifics of the current complaint and the procedures we follow, below.

THE COMPLAINT

The Republican State Leadership Committee is sponsoring TV Advertisements which state that “Virden overturned the conviction of a habitual rapist on a technicality leaving victims without justice.”

Judge Virden’s Campaign states that these statements are false or misleading. The Virden Campaign attached evidence to prove that the accused is currently serving time in an Arkansas Prison, and that Rogers opinion is currently pending on appeal to the Supreme Court. The RRT reviewed these attachments and Rogers v State, 2017 Ark. App. 521 which is the opinion referred to in the TV ad.

REVIEW OF EVIDENCE

Rogers v State, 2017 Ark. App. 521, the opinion referenced in the TV ad, was issued by the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Six judges heard the case; 4 judges voted to remand and reverse, while 2 dissented. Judge Virden voted with the majority and, the writing of the opinion was delegated to him.

Although a technicality was raised as a basis of appeal, the Rogers opinion reversed and remanded on a substantive issue concerning admissibility of evidence to impeach a witness, not on a technicality.

Edward D. Rogers is currently serving in the East Arkansas Region Unit. The Inmate Search-Inmate Details data, available on the Arkansas Department of Correction website, and submitted with this complaint, states that Rogers was admitted on 6/20/2016, and that his release date is 05/03/2044.

CURRENT FINDINGS

Having reviewed this information, the RRT determines that Virden’s Campaign met its initial burden to support its complaint that the advertisements are false or misleading. A person of ordinary intelligence would conclude that:

* Because Judge Virden did not individually make this decision; because the lower court decision was not overturned on a technicality, and because the accused person is in prison, the RRT finds the TV ads to contain false and misleading information.

INSTRUCTIONS

Upon receipt of this letter and review of all available evidence, you may agree to withdraw your advertisement immediately.

Alternatively, if you have evidence or information to support the statements made in your TV advertisements, we ask that you submit that information along with any supporting documentation to the RRT within 24 hours of receipt of this communication. The RRT will review the evidence you submit promptly, and we will then either: (1) find that the Ad does not contain false or misleading information based on the evidence submitted, in which case, we will notify concerned parties; (2) seek further information and evidence; or (3) find that the ad does contain false or misleading information.

A Finding of False or Misleading Information

The RRT will make a finding that the Ads contain false or misleading information, if either:

(1) You do not respond to this letter in 24 hours or by the deadline established should we grant additional time; or

(2) After carefully studying the information and evidence submitted by both parties, we are persuaded that reasonable cause exists.

If the RRT sustains its conclusions that the TV ads contain false or misleading information, we will request that you withdraw the advertisement immediately. If you refuse to withdraw the advertisements within 24 hours of our request, we will take immediate action.

Pursuant to the Rules and Procedures, we are authorized to issue a “Cease and Desist Letter”; publish the Cease and Desist Letter along with any other relevant information on the Arkansas Judicial Campaign Conduct and Education Committee website; and issue press releases informing the public that despite being given an opportunity to be heard, you continue to run Ads containing false and misleading information, and that you do so despite being provided proof that the statements are false and misleading, and despite our request that you withdraw the TV ads.

Our only purpose is to protect the voters in this judicial election from relying on false and misleading information. The voters have the right to make truthfully informed choices when they vote for a member of the Supreme Court. We hope you agree that voters deserve the truth, and will cooperate fully in this process.

Due to website issues, we have had to accept complaints and evidence via email. As time is of the essence, we expect that you will submit your response to this letter to the Team by email to evansaudrey@me.com. Please feel free to call (501-690-3706) or email me should you have any questions about the information in this letter.

Sincerely,

Judge Audrey Evans

Chair of the Rapid Response Team

cc: Linda Napper, Campaign for Judge Barth Virden

References:

Link to TV Advertisements
Complaint filed by Linda Napper on behalf of Judge Barth Virden
The Rapid Response Team Rules and Procedures