LITTLE ROCK — The state Supreme Court issued an order Thursday modifying a rule requiring complaints about Arkansas lawyers to be kept confidential.
The order states that effective Thursday, people who file complaints with the court’s Committee on Professional Conduct are no longer prohibited from talking about their complaints.
Stark Ligon, the committee’s executive director, said he petitioned the court to revise Section 6(A)(3) of the rules of conduct for Arkansas lawyers as part of a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit filed by journalist Mara Leveritt against the committee.
Leveritt has written extensively about the so-called "West Memphis Three" case in which three men were convicted in 1994 in the deaths of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis and were freed under a plea deal in 2011.
Leveritt filed complaints against Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and others over their conduct in the case, and she later was told by Ligon that she could be held in contempt of court for discussing the complaints publicly. The possible penalties included jail time.
Leveritt argued in her lawsuit that the prohibition violated her free-speech rights under the First Amendment. Ligon said he asked the court to revise the rule as part of an agreement that also calls for Leveritt to drop her lawsuit.