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Arkansas Judiciary 101: Arkansas Supreme Court

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The Arkansas judicial system includes five courts: Arkansas Supreme Court, Arkansas Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, State District Courts, and Local (formerly City) Courts.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort; its jurisdiction includes

♦  cases about the interpretation or construction of the state constitution;
♦  criminal appeals in which the death penalty or life imprisonment has been imposed;
♦  petitions relating to the actions of state, county, or municipal officials or circuit courts;
♦  appeals pertaining to election issues;
♦  appeals involving attorney or judicial discipline; second or subsequent appeals

The Arkansas Supreme Court also has general superintending control over all inferior courts of law and equity and regulates the practice of law and the professional conduct of attorneys in Arkansas.

Who sits on the Arkansas Supreme Court?

Arkansas Constitution Governs Supreme Court

The Arkansas Constitution and its various Amendments govern the Supreme Court and its makeup.

On July 1, 2009. the Arkansas Supreme Court became the first court in the nation to specify the official version of its opinions as being the electronic file instead of a physical document. All signed opinions of the Arkansas Supreme Court handed down after July 1, 2009 are designated for publication (may be cited in Arkansas appellate courts), and opinions handed down before that date marked “not designated for publication” do not have precedential value and may not be used.

Seven Justices Elected in Non-Partisan Races

The seven Arkansas Supreme Court justices are elected in state-wide non-partisan races, and serve staggered terms of eight years each.  Candidates for Arkansas Supreme Court justice must be a licensed attorney for at least eight years immediately preceding the date of assuming office.

Justices, who are paid from $145,000 to $157,000/year (current as of 2014), can be removed by impeachment or via action by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (“JDDC”):

♦  Impeachment requires a majority vote of the House of Representatives and 2/3 conviction vote of the Arkansas Senate for the Arkansas Governor to remove the judge, based on the recommendations of the Arkansas Legislature

♦  Judges can be censured, suspended, removed, or retired based upon the JDDC’s recommendation.  The Supreme Court then decides whether to follow the recommendation.

By law, if an individual fails to serve the entire term of office the Arkansas Governor appoints a replacement.