Politics

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge: Summary of Opinions Released

November 23, 2021

Opinion Number: 2021-070 Requestor:   Ingram, Keith M. The Honorable

Could the belief or principle that individuals should be vaccinated for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) meet the definition of conscience under the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act Ark. Code Ann. 17-80-501 et seq.)? Q2) If a medical practitioner, such as a doctor, refused, based on his or her conscience, to see or treat a patient who has not been vaccinated for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), would the medical practitioner be protected under the Act for exercising his or her conscience? Q3) If a medical practitioner is not protected under the Act, would any other laws protect the medical practitioner for refusing to see or treat a patient who has not been vaccinated for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)? RESPONSE: The first two questions focus on the term “conscience” and some characteristic of the patient. This fails to recognize that the protected “right of conscience” under the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act relates to a service that violates the practitioner’s conscience. It is unlikely that the belief that individuals should be vaccinated for COVID-19 meets the Act’s definition of “conscience.” But even if that were not the case, that belief alone would not be a sufficient basis for an objection under the Act because you have not identified any particular service that violates the belief. In sum, these questions miss the point of the Act. The answer to your second question is “no” because you have not identified any particular service that violates that belief or principle. In response to your third question, I am unaware of any such state laws.

Opinion Number: 2021-078 Requestor:   Ballinger, Bob The Honorable

What constitutional provision, code provision, or court precedent establishes the authority of a circuit court judge to declare a law unenforceable outside of his or her judicial district? RESPONSE: I must respectfully decline to issue an opinion on your questions because of pending litigation, as your question is a matter before the court, the outcome of which could directly affect the issue you have raised.

Opinion Number: 2021-094 Requestor:   Looper, Jessica

Is the custodian’s decision to release a letter of suspension, a notice of termination, and certain supporting documentation from a former employee’s personnel file in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request consistent with provisions of the FOIA? Must certain references to medical information in the these records be redacted prior to the records’ release?  RESPONSE:  Having reviewed the records at issue, it is my opinion, based on the definitions and standards discussed below, that the custodian has properly classified the records as the former employee’s evaluation records.  The custodian has determined that these evaluation records meet the applicable test for disclosure.  From the face of the records, I cannot say that this decision is inconsistent with the FOIA.  As to your question about whether certain medical information should be redacted from the records, it appears that you have not made an initial decision regarding these potential redactions.  Therefore, I cannot opine on whether your decision is consistent with the FOIA.  However, I can anticipate based on the face of the records that any potential basis for redacting such information would fall outside the scope of my statutory review.

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