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Arkansas Judiciary 101: Court of Appeals

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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.

With general subject matter jurisdiction, the Arkansas Court of Appeals (“ACA”) — created via constitutional amendment in 1978 — serves as the state’s intermediate appellate court.  The ACA handles appeals from all Arkansas trial court cases except those with unique points of law, which are heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court (see Arkansas Judicary 101: Supreme Court).

Who sits on the Court of Appeals?

Final Court of Review

The Court of Appeals is basically Arkansas’ final court of review because, by state law, cases cannot be appealed beyond the Court of Appeals and the Arkansas Supreme Court generally hears only appeals raising unique questions of law.

There is no automatic right of appeal from the Arkansas Court of Appeals to the Arkansas Supreme Court; the Supreme Court reviews ACA rulings only (1) on application by a party to the appeal, (2) upon certification of the Arkansas Court of Appeals, or (3) if the Arkansas Supreme Court decides the case should have originally been assigned to it.

The Arkansas Supreme Court sets the jurisdiction, internal rules, and processes for the Court of Appeals, while the Arkansas Legislature determines the composition of the court and related election issues.

The Arkansas Court of Appeals includes 12 judges working in 3-judge panels that hear mostly appeals from Arkansas Circuit Courts and the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission.  Out of all its various opinions, the ACA publishes only those that “resolve novel or unusual questions.”

Seven Districts for Arkansas Court of Appeals; 8-Year Terms

Arkansas is divided into seven Districts (some with two judge positions) for electing ACA judges, who serve staggered 8-year terms.

Qualifications for sitting on the Arkansas Court of Appeals are the same as for the Arkansas Supreme Court.

(Some info from Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, and courts.arkansas.gov