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State of Arkansas

Judicial Selection in the States: Arkansas

Overview

News

News reports indicate that at least two members of the New Jersey Senate plan to introduced a constitutional amendment to require New Jersey supreme court...

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When Texas chief justice in his State of the Judiciary address brought up the issue of ending straight ticket voting (STV) for judicial races I...

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A plan to change the way Pennsylvania s appellate judges are picked has cleared the House Judiciary Committee, with amendments, earlier this week. HB 111...

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Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of...

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In the November 2000 elections, Arkansas voters adopted a new judicial article, known as Amendment 80. The new article called, in part, for consolidation of Arkansas’ law and equity courts. The Arkansas judiciary now has four levels: the supreme court, the court of appeals, the circuit courts, and the district courts. The circuit courts are general jurisdiction trial courts, and the district courts are trial courts of limited jurisdiction.

The new article also provided for nonpartisan election of judges. Prior to Amendment 80, judicial candidates ran in partisan primaries and were identified on the general election ballot as members of political parties. This reform was over thirty years in the making. Since 1970, advocates of judicial reform in Arkansas had urged the legislature to alter its system of selecting judges. Many of these groups favored merit selection of appellate court judges and nonpartisan election of trial court judges. However, merit selection encountered widespread opposition–from judges and ex-judges who sincerely believed in judicial elections, from legislators, and from members of the media who felt that merit selection was a conspiracy of the legal profession against the public. Amendment 80 forged a compromise, providing that judges would be selected on nonpartisan ballots and that the legislature could refer the issue of merit selection of appellate judges to the voters at any general election.