The Arkansas Supreme Court recently rejected a request by the city of Fort Smith to hear oral arguments in the appeal of a Freedom of Information Act violation ruling issued by a Sebastian County Circuit Court judge in January.

Fort Smith City Attorney Jerry Canfield of Daily & Woods in Fort Smith filed the appeal in June in response to Sebastian County Circuit Judge Michael Fitzhugh's summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Bruce Wade’s civil lawsuit. Joey McCutchen of McCutchen & Sexton Law Firm in Fort Smith represents Wade.

Fitzhugh concluded a series of emails exchanged between Fort Smith city directors and the city administrator in May and August 2017 constituted a violation of the state's Freedom of Information Act when they sent emails about a request by Fort Smith Police Chief Nathaniel Clark to amend the rules of the Civil Service Commission and allow the hiring or appointment of officer positions of “external applicants,” or those from outside the city force.

All briefs have been submitted to the higher court for the appeal and now the case is simply waiting in line to be reviewed by judges, according to a state supreme court clerk who further explained oral arguments are reserved for cases that may be too complicated to be understood through briefs alone. The higher court issued its rejection letter for oral arguments Sept. 7.

"I'm confident that Bruce Wade will win the appeal and the court will follow 50 years of precedent and rules if public business is likely going to go before the board it can't be discussed in private email chains," McCutchen said.

The plaintiff's attorney also noted he did not feel a definition change was needed for what constitutes a "meeting."