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The Pulaski County Circuit Court still has not received the files for a hog farm's lawsuit against state environmental regulators nearly 50 days after a Newton County circuit judge ordered the transfer.

Proceedings in the lawsuit, which alleges that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality violated public-records law, cannot go on if the case is not actively filed in a court.

On Wednesday, employees of each circuit court offered different takes to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on how court transfers are supposed to occur, and the Newton County Circuit Court eventually said it would mail a paper copy of the case file to the Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Newton County Deputy Clerk Vanessa Moore said the case records were available electronically. She said the order for transfer had been entered into the system and that the Pulaski County Circuit Court was responsible for taking the records online and transferring them to its jurisdiction.

Jason Kennedy, assistant chief deputy clerk for the Pulaski County Circuit Court, said electronic transfers were not possible yet through the electronic system. While he could print off the records from the state court website, Newton County needed to certify they were the complete copy of the case file, he said.

Moore told the Democrat-Gazette later that the clerk's office would print out the case file, certify it and mail it to Pulaski County, even though she believed the process to be "a waste." The Pulaski County Circuit Court will be responsible for obtaining the $50 transfer fee from the Department of Environmental Quality to reopen the case in the new court.

C&H Hog Farms alleges the department violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act when it did not fulfill a records request the farmers made Oct. 10 for communications about their permit application and records related to other farms located in karst or areas suspected of being karst.

Instead, the department replied Oct. 14, arguing that the request was for "such a voluminous and broad category of records" that the department "cannot locate and identify potentially responsive records with reasonable effort."

C&H sued in Newton County, but Circuit Judge John Putman ordered the case be transferred to Pulaski County Circuit Court on Nov. 30 after the department petitioned for the transfer.

On Wednesday, C&H attorney Chuck Nestrud said he wanted the case to be transferred by now.

"I'm anxious to get it in Pulaski court so we can have a hearing," he said.

Two department spokesmen did not return an email seeking comment by Wednesday evening.

Metro on 01/17/2019

Print Headline: Court-transfer snag holds up hog farm's suit against Arkansas agency

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