Judge reinstates contractor fired after criticizing northern Arkansas lawmaker

Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 8:15 AM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge reinstated an Arkansas attorney’s contract with the state Friday after the state canceled it when he criticized a lawmaker’s support for banning gender-confirming treatments for transgender youths.

Chief U.S. District Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. issued the preliminary injunction in Little Rock that restored Casey Copeland’s contract with the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

Marshall issued the order verbally after hearing arguments between the state and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which is litigating the case.

Copeland emailed his criticism to Republican state Rep. Charlene Fite, who sponsored the ban enacted earlier this year. A federal judge blocked enforcement of the ban before it took effect July 28 after the ACLU challenged it in court. However, the state canceled Copeland’s contract after Fite forwarded Copeland’s message to Administrative Office of the Courts Director Marty Sullivan.

In a statement, Copeland said he was relieved at his reinstatement “so I can get back to work protecting the rights, well-being, and opportunities of Arkansas foster children,” said Casey Copeland. “A citizen’s right to political speech is essential to our democracy and no one should be afraid of speaking their mind to their elected representative on issues that impact their friends, family, and state.”

Said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas: “State legislators may not like hearing from constituents who are unhappy with their actions, but they can’t use the power of the state to retaliate against people because they disagree with them on a certain issue.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said, “The Attorney General is disappointed in the decision and is reviewing the order with our client to determine the next step.”

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