How Does the Arkansas Court of Appeals Work?
The Arkansas Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court. It was established in 1978 by Amendment 58 of the Arkansas Constitution. The court was created to provide relief for the increasing docket of the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals functions as the final court of review for a large number of cases. This implies that for cases where the law is not vague, the Court of Appeals serves as the only option for review for resolutions from lower courts. This means that the Arkansas Supreme Court sits on appeals only where the law is not settled or where unique questions are raised.
Not all the opinions of the court are published. The Court of Appeals only publishes in the state’s Reporter of Decisions, those opinions that mediate on novel or unusual questions. The rules of practice and procedure used by the Arkansas Court of Appeals include Arkansas Rules of Evidence, Rules of Appellate Procedure: Civil, Rules of Appellate Procedure: Criminal, and Rules of Civil Procedure.
Usually, parties involved in litigation do not have the power to appeal beyond the Arkansas Supreme Court. The Arkansas Court Of Appeals has initial jurisdiction over appeals arising from the following courts:
- Arkansas Circuit Court;
- Arkansas District Court; and
- Arkansas City Courts.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction and general subject matter jurisdiction over such matters as may be decided by the Supreme Court (Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 1–2).. According to Rule 1–2 of the Rules of Arkansas Supreme Court, all cases appealed must be filed in the Court of Appeals. The types of appeals that are not handled by the Arkansas Court of Appeals include:
- Criminal appeals where the consequence is life imprisonment or the death penalty;
- Appeals regarding the construction or interpretation of the Constitution of the state;
- Appeals on elections and election procedures;
- Appeals on discipline or disability of judges;
- Appeals on the resolutions of the Arkansas Courts of Appeal;
- Appeals about the discipline of attorneys and how the Arkansas Supreme Court regulates the practice of law;
- Petitions for prohibition, quo warranto, injunction, or mandamus directed to the state, county or municipal officials or circuit courts;
- Appeals in which the Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction over.
However, the Supreme court may review the opinion of the Court of Appeals if any of the following applies:
- Any of the parties apply to have an opinion reviewed
- The Arkansas Supreme Court decides that such a case should have originally been assigned to it, or
- The Arkansas Court of Appeals certifies the right to have an appeal.
Initially, the Arkansas Court of Appeals used to comprise six judges. However, due to the growing docket witnessed by the Supreme court, this figure grew to become nine and then eventually twelve. Under Act 1812 of 2003, these twelve judges are elected from the seven different districts in the state. The dates of the election within these districts are established.
The judges are responsible for hearing appeals channeled from the Arkansas Circuit Courts and the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission. The said judges are appointed to an eight-year term in office (A. C. A. § 16–12–202).. This election takes place on a non-partisan basis.
The elected judges are governed by the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, which establishes the standards of judges and judicial candidates’ ethical conduct. The code functions to provide guidance and assist judges in maintaining the highest standards of judicial and personal conduct, and in providing a basis for regulating their conduct through disciplinary agencies.
Judicial terms commence on the first of January in the year following the election. The qualifications and requirements for sitting as a judge in the Arkansas Court of Appeals are the same for the Arkansas Supreme Court. To serve as a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, a judge must:
- Not be less than 30 years old;
- Be of good moral character;
- Be a citizen of the United States of America;
- Be learned in the law;
- Have been a resident of the state of Arkansas for nothing less than two years;
- Have practiced as an attorney for at least eight years.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals has a Chief Judge. This Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. In the event of a midterm vacancy arising in the office of the judge, the governor may appoint an interim judge. The appointed judge is expected to serve until the next general election. Usually, this takes place four or five months after such a vacancy has occurred.
The appointed judge is, however, restricted from running for the office of the judge in the next election. However, the judge is permitted to run for a different office if such a person deems fit. In the state of Arkansas, a judge may only be removed from the bench in three ways:
- If the Arkansas House of Representatives is impeached and a subsequent conviction by a two-thirds vote of the Arkansas Senate;
- By the governor on finding a good cause and with a concurrent resolution by two-thirds of the membership of both the Arkansas Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives;
- The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission may investigate a report of misconduct, issue its findings, and conduct a hearing. A majority vote of the Commission may then recommend removing or suspending a judge to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which then determines the outcome. The Commission comprises nine members, three judges appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court, three lawyers licensed in Arkansas, and three members of the public appointed by the governor.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals is located at the state capital in:
625 Marshall Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
Court cases and dockets are available at the Administrative Office of the Court’s CourtConnect Website. Applicants can access the Court of Appeals docket on the court’s website.