The Arkansas court system operates alongside the executive and legislative branches of the state government to ensure law and order in the state. The state courts, along with the federal appellate courts within the Arkansas state jurisdiction adjudicate cases pertaining to state residents pursuant to the provisions of Arkansas judicial law. Records of judicial proceedings are maintained by the administrative office of each court and disseminated to the public on request. The generation and issuance of Arkansas court records ensure transparency in the state judicial branch.
There are various Arkansas courts, each of which have varying jurisdictions and authorities. The type of dispute at hand and the magnitude of the offense committed determines the court that will try a case.
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's burden necessitated the establishment of the Court of Appeals. Parties dissatisfied with the 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. Appeals from the state supreme court are heard by the equivalent federal court pursuant to the provisions of federal law. However, federal courts usually hear appeals from supreme courts where there is sufficient proof of a material error in the preceding appellate or trial court.
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 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 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 to the Constitution in 1924 increased the number of Supreme Court Justices to seven. These justices, who serve for eight years, each elect a Chief Justice among themselves. The concurrence of at least four of them is required to decide 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 property.
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.
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.
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.