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Attorney arrested at Arkansas Bar Association meeting in Hot Springs for filing FOIA petition

The incident, which occurred at the Hot Springs Convention Center, raises serious concerns about a violation of Standerfer’s First Amendment rights and the suppression of public political speech that the Arkansas Bar Association has long allowed.

The confusion started last night when Standerfer had a cart full of supplies, signs and petitions at the convention center. Although she did not actively seek signatures, she was approached by Hot Springs Police Officer Stg. Patrick Langley, who told Standerfer that two members of the Bar and a representative from the Convention Center wanted her to leave the firm. Standerfer asserted that she had a right to be there, but as a matter of professional courtesy, she told the officer that she would leave her car in the car for the remainder of the event.

Jennifer Standerfer is a representative of Arkansans Citizens for Transparency, a group that advocates for ensuring the right to government transparency and accountability in Arkansas.

Standerfer returned to the event on Friday to earn professional development hours. She left her car in the car and instead took some petition notebooks with her. But he did not actively seek signatures.

Despite the conflict-free and entirely legal nature of her actions, Standerfer was singled out for filing a FOIA petition.

This is especially egregious given the history of political speeches and campaigning occurring at bar association events, where judicial candidates routinely carry and distribute campaign materials.

Today, Standerfer was asked to leave the convention center again. After two bar colleagues asked Standerfer to sign her petition during the judicial roundtable, Standerfer was approached by a second Hot Springs police officer.

The officer asked Standerfer to leave, citing an alleged violation of the convention center’s solicitation policy.

Standerfer calmly maintained her position, maintaining that the proposal was unconstitutional, as was the alleged policy.

Despite her explanation and the fact that she was a paid participant and member of the bar, she was arrested and handcuffed in front of a room full of judges and lawyers.

The witnesses included some of Arkansas’s most prominent legal and judicial officials, underscoring the bizarre nature of the event.

No other participants were asked to leave. Additionally, Standerfer was told she was barred from re-entering the facility due to violating criminal law. She was also told she was not allowed to collect signatures on a public sidewalk outside the center.

Standerfer’s treatment was not only unfair; it also stands in stark contrast to the event’s tolerance for political activity. It is clear that bar and convention center officials did not want the FOIA petition circulated and were willing to overlook Standerfer’s First Amendment to ensure it.

Today’s incident raises serious concerns about abuses and overreach of power, suppression of direct democracy, and violations of the rights of Arkansans to pursue transparency in government.

The Hot Springs Convention Center, which is funded by taxpayers’ money and is therefore a public entity, has no legal basis to prevent the circulation of petitions on its premises.

At a time when transparency and accountability in government actions are paramount, the unconstitutional arrest of a lawyer for simply filing a petition to ensure just that – transparency and accountability – is a chilling reminder of the ongoing fight to uphold democratic principles and protect civil liberties in Arkansas.

This is a developing story and further updates will be provided as more information becomes available.