Judicial selection in Arkansas

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Arkansas
SealofAR.png
Arkansas Supreme Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Arkansas Court of Appeals
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Arkansas Circuit Courts
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Arkansas District Courts
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years

Selection of the state court judges in Arkansas occurs through the non-partisan election of judges. While the appellate and general jurisdiction courts have varying policies on judge qualifications, chief justice selection and term length, they share common regulations on re-election and the filling of interim vacancies. Likewise, the limited jurisdiction courts function largely the same across the board, differing primarily in judge qualifications.[1][2]

Judges' terms begin on January 1 of the year after they were elected.[3]

Supreme Court

See also: Non-partisan election

There are seven justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court, each elected to eight-year terms. They compete in non-partisan primaries (occurring at the same time as the primary elections for other state officials) in which the candidate who receives more than 50% of the vote wins the seat. If no candidate garners a majority of the vote, the top two candidates compete in a runoff during the general election. Sitting judges are required to run for re-election at the expiration of their terms.[1]

The court's chief justice is selected by voters at large and serves in that capacity for a full eight-year term.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a justice must be:

  • at least 30 years old;
  • of "good moral character;"
  • learned in the law;
  • a U.S. citizen and state resident for at least 2 years; and
  • a legal practitioner for at least 8 years.[1]

Arkansas does not use judicial nominating commissions to screen or select potential candidates.[4]

Vacancies

In the event of a midterm vacancy, an interim judge is selected by the governor. This appointee will serve until the next general election taking place four or more months after the vacancy occurred.[1]

Court of Appeals

See also: Non-partisan election

There are twelve judges on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, each elected to six-year terms.[1] Most aspects of selection are shared with the supreme court—including regulations on interim vacancies, re-election and judicial qualifications—but the chief judge selection process differs slightly. The chief judge is appointed by the chief justice of the supreme court and serves in that capacity for four years.[1]

Circuit Court

See also: Non-partisan election

There are 122 judges on the Arkansas Circuit Courts, each elected to six-year terms. Most aspects of selection are shared with the supreme court and court of appeals—including regulations on re-election and interim vacancies—but the judicial qualifications and chief judge selection process differ slightly.[1]

The chief judge of each circuit court is chosen by supreme court appointment. He or she serves in that capacity for an indefinite period of time.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • at least 28 years old;
  • of "good moral character;"
  • learned in the law;
  • a U.S. citizen;
  • a state resident for at least 2 years; and
  • a legal practitioner for at least 6 years.[1]

Limited jurisdiction courts

Arkansas's limited jurisdiction courts (district courts and city courts) vary in their selection processes:[2][5][6][7]

District Court City Court
Selection: Non-partisan election Non-partisan election
Term: 4 year term -
Re-election method: Contested election Contested election
Qualifications: at least 26 years old; 3 years of law practice (some local exceptions); registered voter of district Vary
Note: Many district & city judges serve multiple counties and courts. Twenty-nine district judges also serve as city court judges.[6]

History

Judicial selection methods in Arkansas have undergone significant changes in the last 200 years. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.

  • 2001: The general assembly enacts a nonpartisan elections law mandating that:
  • judicial elections are to be held in conjunction with preferential primaries in May;
  • if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will go on to compete in a runoff during the November general election; and
  • judicial candidates may seek political party endorsement if they wish.
  • 2000: Arkansas passes Amendment 80 with 57% of the vote, and the state's system of judicial selection changes in a variety of ways:
  • Judicial elections are changed from partisan to non-partisan.
  • Circuit, chancery, probate and juvenile courts are merged into the circuit court.
  • All limited jurisdiction courts are merged into the district court.
  • Term lengths of circuit court judges are increased to six years, and terms of district court judges are set at four years.
  • 1978: The Arkansas Legislature is empowered to establish the court of appeals. Judges are to be elected to eight-year terms.
  • 1874: All supreme court justices, including the chief justice, are elected by the people. Circuit court judges are elected by the people to four-year terms.
  • 1868: The chief justice of the supreme court is to be appointed by the governor with senate confirmation, while associate justices are to be elected by the people. Circuit judges are appointed by the governor with senate confirmation to six-year terms.
  • 1864: Supreme court justices are elected by the people.
  • 1848: Circuit court judges are elected by the people.
  • 1836: The first Arkansas Constitution dictates that judges of the supreme and circuit courts are to be elected by a majority vote of both houses of the Arkansas Legislature. They are to serve eight and four-year terms, respectively.[8]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America makes the appointments, which must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[9]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

ArkansasArkansas Supreme CourtArkansas Court of AppealsArkansas Circuit CourtsArkansas District CourtsArkansas City CourtsUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of ArkansasUnited States District Court for the Western District of ArkansasUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern and Western Districts of ArkansasUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eighth CircuitArkansas countiesArkansas judicial newsArkansas judicial electionsJudicial selection in ArkansasArkansasTemplate.jpg