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Arkansas Supreme Court

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Arkansas Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1836
Location:   Little Rock, Arkansas
Chief:  $160,000
Associates:  $148,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Active justices

Jim Hannah  •  Paul Danielson  •  Karen R. Baker  •  Josephine Hart  •  Courtney Hudson Goodson  •  Rhonda Wood  •  Robin Wynne  •  

Seal of Arkansas.png

Founded on July 4, 1836, the Arkansas Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.


Justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court
The current justices of the court are:
Chief Justice Jim Hannah2001-2016
Associate Justice Paul Danielson2006-2016
Associate justice Karen R. Baker2011-2023
Associate Justice Josephine Hart2013-2021
Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson2010-2018
Associate justice Rhonda Wood1/1/2015-12/31/2023
Justice Robin Wynne2015-2022


Article 7, Section 4 of the Arkansas Constitution describes the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. (This was later amended by Amendment 80, Section 2.) The court has appellate jurisdiction. It may transfer a case from lower courts in certain circumstances or bring special proceedings to the higher court as outlined in Article VI. The court also has a supervisory role over all other courts in the state, and the conduct of attorneys and over the practice of law within the state.[1][2]

Judicial Selection

See also: Judicial selection in Arkansas

All justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court are elected for eight-year terms in nonpartisan elections. Justices serve staggered terms so that is unlikely the entire court be replaced in one election. Nonpartisan elections were implemented in 2000 with the passage of Amendment 3. Vacancies are filled by interim appointments by the Governor of Arkansas under Amendment 29, Section 1 of the state constitution. Generally, appointed judges do not run for the seat in the general election.

The court consists of a Chief Justice, Vice Chief Justice and five Associate Justices. The Chief and Vice Chief are elected by their peers to five year renewable terms.[1]

Political outlook

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Arkansas was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Arkansas received a score of -0.48. Based on the justices selected, Arkansas was the 9th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[3]


Minimum qualifications for election to the court are:

  • At least 30 years old.
  • Be of good moral character.
  • Be learned in the law.
  • Possess U.S. citizenship.
  • Have been a resident of Arkansas for more than two years.
  • Have practiced law for at least eight years preceding the date of assuming office.[1]

Removal of justices

Justices can be removed in multiple ways:


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 * *
2013 * *
2012 269 157
2011 275 224
2010 240 159
2009 320 366
2008 393 379
2007 396 407


  • Arkansas has not made statistics for 2013 or 2014 available.

Notable decisions

  • Ezekiel George v. State and Chas. M. Hudspeth v. State were the first written decisions published by the court; both were appeals of indictments for operating houses of gambling.[10]
  • The court heard a suit against Wal-Mart in 1993 that claimed that its pricing practices were unfair to smaller pharmacies. The court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor.[10]
  • Jegley v. Picado (2002)
In this case, the court found Arkansas’s sodomy statute unconstitutional. This ruling removed the last laws that criminalized homosexual behavior.[10]
  • Dupree v. Alma School District No. 30 (1983)
The supreme court, "determined that the state’s method of funding public education was unconstitutional. Rejecting local control as an excuse for disparities in funding and in educational opportunities in the state’s school systems, the court demanded that Arkansas revise its funding statutes. The issue was visited again in 2002 in Lake View School Dist. No. 25 v. Huckabee. The court again ruled the state’s school funding system unconstitutional, giving a deadline of January 1, 2004, to fix the problem. The state missed the deadline; after further court measures set a new deadline of December 2006, the legislature met in special session and found ways to increase funding of public schools and to consolidate school districts in order to meet the court-demanded requirements."[10]
  • In 1929 the court ruled, "that the Democratic Party was a private organization and therefore could make its own rules about who was allowed to be a member of the party."[10] This ruling enabled the continuation of white-only primaries until the 1940s.
  • Garrett v. Faubus (1959)
This case involved the court with the de-segregation crisis in Little Rock. The court upheld Act 4 by a narrow vote, "which had given the governor authority to close schools when he felt that they were threatened by violence."[10]
  • State v. Epperson (1967), an appeal to Epperson v. McDonald (1966)
"[T]he court heard challenges to Act 1 of 1928, which forbade the teaching of the theory of evolution in state schools. The court upheld the act, but the [[Supreme Court of the United States|U.S. Supreme Court] overturned the decision the next year, criticizing the Arkansas Supreme Court for its reluctance to challenge public opinion and for not handling the case in a thorough and complete manner."[10]


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Arkansas earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[11]

Access to court opinions

All opinions signed after July 1, 2009 are published opinions that may be cited as president and are available on the court's website. Before this opinions that were labeled "not designated for publication" could not be used to set president. The Supreme Court is the first court in the country to make electronic versions of their opinions the official versions.[2][1]

History of the court

Arkansas became the 25th state in 1836, and Article VI, Section 1 of the state's original constitution vested the judicial power of the Arkansas “in one Supreme Court, in Circuit Courts, in County Courts and in Justices of the Peace.” The Arkansas Supreme Court originally had three justices; this included one Chief Justice. During this period, the Arkansas General Assembly elected the Supreme Court justices.[1][10]

In 1861 Arkansas seceded from the Union, but the Supreme Court initially remained unchanged. In September 1863 Union soldiers were moving toward Little Rock; because of the threat to the Court and its records the Supreme Court and other state offices were moved to Washington, Arkansas (Hempstead County). After the end of the Civil War in 1865, a newly assembled Supreme Court returned to Little Rock.[10]

In 1868 the Reconstruction constitution added two justices to the court, bringing the number of justices to five. Six years later, in 1874, Arkansas ratified their second and current constitution. Originally, this constitution called for only three Supreme Court justices, returning the number of justices to three, but a 1924 amendment re-raised the number of justices to five. The 1924 amendment, also known as Amendment 9, also gave the Arkansas General Assembly the power to increase the number of justices to seven. In 1925, the Assembly chose to exercise this power, raising the number of Supreme Court justices to seven through Act 205; this was the last expansion of the court.[1][10]

Notable firsts

  • Elsijane Trimble Roy, appointed in 1975, was the first woman to serve as an Arkansas Supreme Court justice. She was later appointed to the federal bench.
  • George Howard Jr., appointed in 1977, was the first African-American justice. He later served on the federal bench.
  • George Rose Smith was the longest-serving justice; he served from 1949 to 1987.
  • When George Rose Smith joined the court in 1949, he joined Chief Justice Griffin Smith and Associate Justice Frank G. Smith. These three justices made-up an unprecedented trio of judges on the same state Supreme Court with the same last name.


See also

External links



Position 2
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
CullenTim Cullen (Arkansas) No48.0%   DefeatedD
WynneRobin WynneApprovedANo52.0%   ApprovedA
Unopposed  Judge Karen R. Baker (Position 6)
Unopposed   Rhonda Wood (Position 7)


CandidateIncumbencyPositionPrimary VoteElection Vote
HartJosephine Hart   ApprovedANo65.4%ApprovedA   ApprovedA
AbramsonRaymond Abramson    NoDistrict 1, Position 134.6% 


Arkansas Supreme Court, Associate Justice, Position 6
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Karen Baker Green check mark transparent.png 206,365 48.4%
Tim Fox 156,953 36.8%
Evelyn Moorehead 63,450 14.9%
Arkansas Supreme Court, Associate Justice, Position 3
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Courtney Henry Green check mark transparent.png 249,425 57.5%
John Fogleman 184,280 42.5%
  • Click here for 2010 General Election Results from the Arkansas Secretary of State.
See Arkansas Supreme Court elections and Arkansas judicial elections, 2010 for more


Arkansas Supreme Court, Chief Justice, Position 1
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Jim Hannah Green check mark transparent.png Approved
  • Click here for 2008 General Election Results from the Arkansas Secretary of State.


Arkansas Supreme Court, Associate Justice, Position 7
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Robert L. Brown Green check mark transparent.png Approved
Arkansas Supreme Court, Associate Justice, Position 2
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Donald Corbin Green check mark transparent.png 193,625 62.8%
Roger Harrod 114,957 37.3%
Arkansas Supreme Court, Associate Justice, Position 5
2006 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Paul Danielson Green check mark transparent.png 177,406 57.2%
Wendell Griffen 132,789 42.8%
  • Click here for 2006 General Election Results from the Arkansas Secretary of State.


Arkansas Supreme Court, Chief Justice, Position 4
2004 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Jim Gunter Green check mark transparent.png 110,250 37.8%
Collins Kilgore 91,897 31.5%
Paul Danielson 89,741 30.8%
Arkansas Supreme Court, Chief Justice, Position 1
2004 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Jim Hannah Green check mark transparent.png 191,695 62.5%
Wendell Griffen 114,835 37.5%
  • Click here for 2004 General Election Results from the Arkansas Secretary of State.
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