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PPGMR Managing Member Julie DeWoody Greathouse Receives Arkansas Bar Association Award

Congratulations to Julie DeWoody Greathouse, managing partner, on receiving the 2019-2020 Golden Gavel award from the Arkansas Bar Association (ABA). As an ABA committee chair, she helped develop and pass the Emeritus Attorney Rule, which allows those who have retired from the legal field to continue practicing law in a pro bono capacity.

Arkansas Supreme Court Affirms Oil and Gas Commission’s Authority to Set Reasonable Royalty Rate

G. Alan Perkins and Kimberly D. Logue of PPGMR Law successfully represented SWN Production (Arkansas) in the affirmance of an amended AOGC integration order. The Order set aside a mineral owners’ attempt to set an inflated royalty rate through self-dealing leases, elect to go non-consent, and force the operator to pay the inflated royalty. AOGC agreed that the royalty rate was unreasonable, and reduced the rate the operator was required to pay during recoupment to a reasonable royalty rate based on market conditions. The appeal concerned a dispute between operator SWN Production and a group of integrated mineral owners who opted not to participate in the cost of completing a well. The mineral owners attempted to force a 25% royalty rate by executing self-dealing leases with their own oil and gas companies and arguing that SWN Production should be bound by that royalty rate during the recoupment period. At SWN Production’s request, the AOGC amended its integration order for the unit and ordered that the mineral owners could receive no more than a 1/7th royalty based on the current market. The mineral owners and their related companies appealed the Order arguing that the AOGC lacked statutory authority to make such an adjustment. The case was originally dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds. The Supreme Court reversed in 2018. On remand, the trial court affirmed the AOGC’s order setting a reasonable royalty rate. Following a second appeal, the Supreme Court has now affirmed on the merits, holding that the AOGC has statutory authority under Ark. Code Ann. §§ 15-71-110(a)(1) and 15-72-304(a) to enter integration orders and also to ensure a reasonable royalty rate. The Court observed that state agencies possess such powers as are conferred by statute or are necessarily implied from a statute. Justices Hart, Kemp, and Baker dissented.

PPGMR Obtains Appellate Reversal of Circuit Court Finding that Church Property Dispute Was Nonjusticiable

Kimberly D. Logue of PPGMR Law successfully obtained a reversal in the Arkansas Court of Appeals of a circuit court ruling that client First Presbyterian Church of Magnolia’s petition to quiet title in the “true owner” of local church property is nonjusticiable. The church claims that Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) unlawfully declared a trust over local church assets, including real property, through the denomination’s governing documents referred to as the Book of Order. The Columbia County Circuit Court dismissed the petition as nonjusticiable on the grounds that there had been no actual harm to the church and the issue was therefore not ripe. The dismissal was reversed and remanded by the Arkansas Court of Appeals with instruction that the court must apply neutral principles of law and determine whether a valid express or implied trust in favor of the denomination exists and resolve who owns the property.