Arkansas Judiciary 101: District Courts
The lowest courts are city courts and district courts, categorized as either state district court or local district court.
STATE DISTRICT COURTS:
Arkansas’ state district courts are divided into 15 geographical districts (will expand to 17 districts in 2017) served by 25 full-time judges.
Our two District Court judges carry a caseload of around 12,000 plus cases annually (as of 2014).
Faulkner County District Court hears misdemeanors and violations of state law for the City of Conway and Faulkner County, as well as
♦ schedules court appearances,
♦ collects / distributes funds for both city and county,
♦ issues warrants,
♦ makes decisions on judicial dispositions, and
♦ handles small claims and civil claims involving contracts, personal property damage, and recovery of personal property in matters less than $25,000.
In addition, state district court judges can hear certain matters that were filed in circuit court upon referral by the circuit court or upon the consent of the parties.
LOCAL DISTRICT COURTS:
In smaller areas where no district court exists, local district courts (formerly City Courts) are served by part-time judges who may also engage in a private law practice. Local district courts handle the same cases as state district courts, with the exception of a $5,000 limit on civil cases involving contracts, damage to and recovery of personal property.
CRIMINAL and CIVIL DOCKETS:
District Courts, via the criminal docket and civil docket, are where the vast majority of people have contact with the Arkansas judicial system.
The criminal docket covers both preliminary felony cases and simple misdemeanors — any crime punishable by up to 1 year and $1,000 fine. The vast majority of misdemeanor cases in district court are traffic violations and non-violent violations.
The civil docket includes non-criminal cases involving amounts of up to $25,000, mostly collection and small vehicle accident cases typically tried by a judge.
NO JURY TRIALS:
Jury trials are not available in District Court. If a party wants a jury trial the lawsuit must be filed in Circuit Court.
SMALL CLAIMS DIVISION:
The “People’s Court,” or small claims division on the civil docket, is where both sides come in front of a judge and “tell their side.” The small claims division adjudicates civil cases up to $5,000 and NO attorneys (just citizens representing themselves) are allowed to practice in small claims court.
(Some info above from courts.arkansas.gov)