Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Records
Are Arkansas Court Records Public?
Court records, according to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), are public records in Arkansas. Section 25-19-103 of the Arkansas FOIA, enacted on February 14, 1967, stipulated that every documented record from the discharge of official duties supported by public funds are public records. Members of the public have the right to inspect and make copies of public records at a cost. The FOIA was passed to deepen the confidence of Arkansans in public officials.
Government agencies in possession of public records are mandated to make the records available when requested per FOIA. The Act, however, restricts the public from having access to some records. State tax records, medical and adoption records, grand jury minutes, identities of undercover law enforcement agents, and unpublished drafts of judicial opinions are some of the documents exempted by the Arkansas FOIA. Public records custodians reserve the right to deny requests regarding exempted records. They can also rebuff a public record request if the requestor has pleaded guilty to or convicted for a felony and is serving time at a correctional facility. A representative of a convicted felon who is not an attorney will also be denied a public record request. Public records requests may be submitted in person, by telephone, via mail, or by other allowed electronic means. Note that unclear public record requests may also be declined by the custodians.
How Do I Find Court Records in Arkansas?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Arkansas is to determine the court that tried the particular case requested and then approach the clerk of that court. Clerks of courthouses are the custodian of court records, and they can make requested records available to interested persons in both paper and electronic forms.
The classes of courts in Arkansas and the types of cases they have jurisdiction over are:
- District Courts: Arkansas District Courts are courts of limited jurisdictions with two operating levels. The State District Courts have jurisdiction over traffic violations, misdemeanors, preliminary felony hearings, and recovery of personal properties with values of $25,000 or less. The Local District Courts’ jurisdiction is territorially limited. Cases tried at Local District Courts are traffic violations, preliminary felony hearings, misdemeanors, and recovery of personal properties whose values are not more than $5,000. To find records of cases tried at Arkansas District Court, contact the clerks of the courthouses keeping such documents, and submit written requests or apply orally.
- Circuit Courts: The elimination of the distinction between courts of law and equity courts in Arkansas gave Arkansas Circuit Courts general jurisdiction trial court status. Records of cases tried at Circuit Courts can be retrieved from the clerks at the courthouses.
- Court of Appeals: The Arkansas Court of Appeals hears appeals of decisions made by the lower trial courts.
- Supreme Court: The Supreme Court in Arkansas has the highest authority in the state. It reviews opinions made by the Court of Appeals. Appeals of cases earlier tried by the lower trial courts that ended in capital punishment are also heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court share the same clerk. The clerk of the courts provides payroll services for both courts and acts as the custodian of their records. To obtain copies of the Appellate Court records, requestors should submit requests orally or in writing to:
625 Marshall Street
Suite 130, Justice Building
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Copying and inspection fees of public records vary and depend on the number of pages in the document. However, Arkansas laws demand that the total fee be paid upfront if it exceeds $25. Custodians of public records may waive fees for requested records if the purpose of the request is non-commercial or in the public interest.
The record of cases heard at the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals from May 20, 2013, is available online to members of the public. Requestors can go online to find records of most cases using a modern case management system called CourtConnect. Records of some District and Circuit Courts are also fully accessible on the CourtConnect platform, while others only have partial records maintained.
- Search by Name: Requesters can use all or part of the names of persons or businesses who are parties to any case to find court records.
- Search by Judgment: Interested persons can use the completion status of judgments to search for cases on the CourtConnect platform. The options of judgments that have been given, set aside, or vacated can be used to find court cases.
- Search by Date: Requestors can use both the beginning and end dates of proceedings heard in court to find their cases of interest.
- Search by Case Number: Using the number assigned to a case, anyone can retrieve information on a court record from the CourtConnect platform.
Counties also have records of court cases available online. Washington County in Arkansas, for instance, maintains court records online for access by Washington County residents and the general public. The county charges $5 for certified copies of an entire court file.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How Do Arkansas Courts Work?
The Arkansas court system has four levels of courts. The type of dispute at hand and the magnitude of the offense committed determines the court that will try a case.
District Courts in Arkansas have limited jurisdiction. They consist of State District Courts and Local District Courts. State District Courts’ jurisdiction may be city-wide, countywide, or extend to two or more counties. Disputes involving traffic violations, misdemeanors, preliminary hearings for felonies, and recovery of personal properties with $25,000 or less in value, are tried at the State District Courts. At present, there are 16 State District Courts with 67 departments and 25 judges who are elected to a four-year term each. The authority of the Local District Courts is limited to cities or counties. They try cases brought before the State District Courts involving personal properties that can be recovered at the Local District Courts with lesser monetary value. Only properties worth at most $5,000 can be recovered at the Local District Courts. Currently, Arkansas has 77 Local District Courts with 178 departments and are served by 90 part-time judges.
Circuit Courts in Arkansas are courts of general jurisdiction. Constitutional Amendment 80 eliminated the existence of separate courts for disputes that involve the determination of guilt and those that involve finding equity among parties to a case. This amendment gave the Circuit Courts general jurisdiction over all issues. Currently, there are about 28 Circuit Courts in Arkansas, with a total of 121 Circuit Court judges who are elected for a six-year term each.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals, established in 1979 by an Act of the General Assembly, is an intermediate appellate court. The need to lessen the Supreme Court burden necessitated the establishment of the Court of Appeals. Parties dissatisfied with decisions of the lower trial courts can seek a review from the Court of Appeals. The Arkansas Court of Appeals has 12 judges, including one Chief Judge, who are all elected for an 8-year term.
The Arkansas Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state. Alongside appealing disputes emanating from trial courts’ decisions, the Arkansas Supreme Court also makes rules to regulate the practice of law in the state. It is not cast in stone that the Supreme Court reviews the Court of Appeals’ decisions. The Supreme Court has to agree to review a case before the appeal is brought before the court. There are currently seven justices of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice, and serving an 8-year tenure.
What Are Civil Court and Small Claims?
Small claims are petty cases tried at the Small Claims Division of Arkansas District Courts. Disputes over properties with value not exceeding $5,000 are tried as small claims. The Small Claims Courts are open to persons over the age of 18. Parents, relatives, or older friends may assist minors in filing small claims and attend hearings on their behalf in the court. Disputes that can be tried in a Small Claims Court include recovery of damages to personal property, loan repayment, security deposits, and suits involving contracts. The filing fee for a small claims case varies between $30 and $65. Attorneys don't need to be present at small claims hearings. The plaintiff and the defendant present before a judge who gives a ruling at the end. Small claims cases in Arkansas that must involve the presence of attorneys are tried at the civil division of the District Court.
In civil suits, plaintiffs claim money for damages and recovery of personal properties with values that do not exceed $25,000. They must, however, file cases within a stipulated time. Lawsuits of broken written contracts must be filed within five years after the offense, while slander expires after one year. Oral agreements have a limit of three years, and cases involving damages to personal properties must be filed within three years. Only 9 out of 12 jurors must agree to decide on a small claims case.
What Are Appeals and Court Limits?
An appeal is a process of applying to a court of higher authority to review the decision of a lower court. Parties dissatisfied with the ruling of a court can apply for an appeal at a higher court for a review and possible overturn of that ruling. The Appellate Courts in Arkansas are the Court of Appeals and the Arkansas Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals reviews decisions made by the Circuit Courts. However, some cases are appealed directly to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Disputes involving the interpretation of the Arkansas Constitution, appeals on electoral matters, and criminal appeals where the lower court handed down the capital punishment are appealable at the Arkansas Supreme Court. The Arkansas Supreme Court is not mandated to review every decision of the Court of Appeals. It has the sole discretion to review or decline cases appealed to it from the Court of Appeals.
The notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days after the decision of the court has been entered. Parties can, however, apply for an extension to file a notice of appeal if not done in these 30 days. The court charges different appeal fees for various judgments. For example, filing appeals for felonies are free, while civil and misdemeanor cases cost $25. Also, the filing for a civil or misdemeanor appeal costs $185.
What are Arkansas Bankruptcy Records?
Arkansas Bankruptcy Records provide accounting information on individuals and businesses who have filed at the bankruptcy court because they are unable to meet their financial obligations to creditors. Anyone wishing to view documents on the Court’s Electronic Case Filing (ECF) System must have an account on the PACER system. Attorneys practicing before the court are required to engage in the electronic filing of pleadings and other filings under Local Rule 5005-4. The Court also allows limited filers to file electronically. The PACER account is the starting point for document filing.
How Do I Find My Case Number In Arkansas?
The online case management system of the Arkansas Supreme Court, CourtConnect, allows Arkansans to look up court cases and find case numbers. Interested persons can search CourtConnect with their partial or complete names to retrieve their case numbers. They can also find case numbers by searching with the date the judgment was passed.
Interested individuals can also visit the courthouses where such cases were heard and seek the clerk’s assistance to search their case files and retrieve case numbers. However, requestors must provide enough information that will help the clerks of courthouses find their case files.
Can You Look Up Court Cases In Arkansas?
Yes, most court cases in Arkansas can be looked up using the CourtConnect online case management system. Court rulings of the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals are available on the CourtConnect platform. District Courts in counties such as Crawford, Faulkner, Garland, Van Buren, and Hot Spring maintain their records online. Also, Circuit Courts in Baxter, Benton, Boone, Calhoun, and Carrol counties have their court records online. Some counties do not have all of their court records online. Only partial court records of Arkansas, Bradley, Desha, Lafayette, and Perry counties are currently maintained on the CourtConnect platform.
Furthermore, counties in Arkansas have court records archived and available online. For instance, Pulaski County makes records from the Circuit Court available online to members of the public. The county charges $0.03 per page to make black and white copies of court records, while colored copies are available for $0.20 per page. Besides court cases, opinions of the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals are also accessible online.
Does Arkansas Hold Remote Trials?
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the introduction of technology for remote trials and to reduce in-court hearings to the barest minimum. An order issued by the Supreme Court justices suspended jury trials till January 2021. The Supreme Court approved video conferencing for initial appearances, detention, plea, and sentence hearings. Video conferencing may also be used for civil hearings and other court proceedings in cases where in-person proceedings are not possible. Attorneys and parties to lawsuits with a high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus may request remote trials. A continuance will be granted if such proceedings cannot be held remotely.
To facilitate the conduct of remote hearings, the Arkansas Supreme Court makes resources and guidelines available for judges, attorneys, and parties to any case. A video conferencing application known as Zoom is used for remote hearings in Arkansas.
What is the Arkansas Supreme Court?
Established by an Act of the General Assembly in 1836, the Arkansas Supreme Court is the highest in the state. It is an appellate court that reviews lower courts decisions and interprets the Arkansas Constitution when and where necessary. Under the first Constitution of Arkansas, the General Assembly elected only three Justices who then elected a Chief Justice among themselves. Further amendments of the Constitution in 1924 increased the number of the Supreme Court Justices to seven. These justices who serve for eight years each elects a Chief Justice among themselves. The concurrence of at least four of them is required to make decisions on cases appealed to the court.
Arkansas Court of Appeals?
The Arkansas Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court in the state. Appeals of cases not constitutionally for the Arkansas Supreme Court are brought before the Court of Appeals. The court was established in 1979, and the number of judges has risen steadily from six to twelve. The judges are elected to serve an eight-year term, while the Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court appoints a Chief Judge among the twelve elected Judges. The decisions of the Court of Appeals are not immediately appealable at the Arkansas Supreme Court. Grieving parties on any decision of the Court of Appeals must first seek the permission of the Supreme Court before appealing the case. The Supreme Court will only hear approved appeals, making the Court of Appeals the final decider of most lawsuits.
Arkansas Circuit Courts?
Arkansas Circuit Courts are courts of general jurisdictions. Previously, there were separate courts for disputes of law and determination of equity among parties to a case. However, a constitutional amendment in 2001 eliminated that discrimination and merged all the cases under the jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts in Arkansas. There are currently 23 judicial circuits in the state. Five of them were split to bring the Circuit Courts in Arkansas to 28. These courts have 121 elected judges who serve for a six-year term and preside over cases brought before the courts. Circuit Courts have five divisions, namely, the Criminal Division, Civil Division, Domestic Relation Division, Probate Division, and Juvenile Division. The counties that fall under each circuit are:
- First Circuit: Cross County, Lee County, Monroe County, Phillips County, St. Francis County, and Woodruff County
- Second Circuit: Clay County, Craighead County, Crittenden County, Greene County, Mississippi County, and Poinsett County
- Third Circuit Jackson County, Lawrence County, Randolph County, and Sharp County
- Fourth Circuit: Madison County and Washington County
- Fifth Circuit: Franklin County, Johnson County, and Pope County
- Sixth Circuit: Perry County and Pulaski County
- Seventh Circuit: Grant County and Hot Spring County
- Eighth Circuit North: Hempstead County and Nevada County
- Eighth Circuit South: Lafayette County and Miller County
- Ninth Circuit East: Clark County
- Ninth Circuit West: Howard County, Little River County, Pike County, and Sevier County
- Tenth Circuit Ashley County, Bradley County, Chicot County, Desha County, and Drew County
- Eleventh Circuit East: Arkansas County
- Eleventh Circuit West: Jefferson County and Lincoln County
- Twelfth Circuit: Sebastian County
- Thirteenth Circuit: Calhoun County, Cleveland County, Columbia County, Dallas County, Ouachita County, and Union County
- Fourteenth Circuit: Baxter County, Boone County, Marion County, and Newton County
- Fifteenth Circuit: Conway County, Logan County, Scott County, and Yell County
- Sixteenth Circuit: Cleburne County, Fulton County, Independence County, Izard County, and Stone County
- Seventeenth Circuit: Prairie County and White County
- Eighteenth Circuit West: Montgomery County and Polk County
- Eighteenth Circuit East: Garland County
- Nineteenth Circuit West: Benton County
- Nineteenth Circuit East: Carroll County
- Twentieth Circuit: Faulkner County, Searcy County, and Van Buren County
- Twenty-First Circuit: Crawford County
- Twenty-Second Circuit: Saline County
- Twenty-Third Circuit: Lonoke County
Arkansas District Courts?
Arkansas District Courts have limited jurisdiction. They consist of the State District Courts and Local District Courts. The State District Courts can have their jurisdictions over two or more counties, while the Local District Courts are limited to cities or counties. There are about 16 State District Courts with 25 full-time judges serving a four-year term each. Also, there are 77 Local District Courts with 90 part-time judges serving a four-year tenure. The types of cases heard at the District Courts include traffic violations, misdemeanors, and recovery of personal properties.