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Roberts v. Priest (98-1052)

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Roberts v. Priest, case number 98-1052, was a decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court in a 1998 pre-election challenge lawsuit. In it, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Bobby Roberts, prohibiting the Arkansas Secretary of State from placing an initiative on the ballot because of signatures that were invalidated by evidence presented by Roberts. The initiative would have abolished property taxes and set more stringent restrictions on how tax increases could be enacted. It was sponsored by John Hoyle and supported by the Arkansas Taxpayers Rights Association.[1]

In 2000, Roberts likewise won another case against Sharon Priest and John Hoyle about a nearly identical measure. In this case, the measure was enjoined from the ballot by the Arkansas Supreme Court due to a misleading popular name and ballot title.[2]

Court decision

The measure

Roberts filed this lawsuit in response to a popular name and ballot title for an initiative measure, which was sponsored by defendant John Hoyle and supported by the Arkansas Taxpayers Rights Association. The measure would have abolished property taxes in the state and required approval of three fourths of the city council, county commissioners or any legislative body levying a new tax as well as the approval from a majority of voters that would be effected by the proposed tax. Moreover, it would have restricted such elections authorizing tax increases to regularly scheduled statewide elections only.[1]

Plaintiff charges

Roberts alleged that certain signatures that the Secretary of State Sharon Priest had originally ruled as valid were, in fact, invalid, making the initiative petition insufficient.[1]


The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that enough allegedly invalid signatures were, in fact, invalid and that the Secretary of State should not have certified the measure for the ballot. Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Morris Arnold, author of the court majority decision, wrote:[1]

Accordingly, we hold that proposed Amendment 4 lacks sufficient signatures to satisfy the requirements of Ark. Const. amend. 7, and we grant the instant petition to enjoin its placement on the November 3, 1998, ballot. Alternatively, we hold that any votes cast on proposed Amendment 4 not be counted or certified.[3]

Because the first of Roberts' charges was sufficient to remove the measure from the ballot, the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the measure with regard to the second charge concerning obligation of contracts.[1]


Bobby Roberts was the plaintiff, "individually, and on Behalf of Arkansans to Protect Police, Libraries, Education, & Services."[1]


Sharon Priest was the defendant, in her official capacity as Arkansas Secretary of State. John Hoyle intervened to assist in the defense, "individually, and on behalf of Arkansas Taxpayers Rights Association."[1]

Related lawsuits

See also

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