The court system has been laid down in Article 7 of the Arkansas Constitution which divides the judicial makeup into 5 levels. At the top of the legal pyramid is the Supreme Court of the State while the Court of Appeals stands at the next rung and is a revisionary tribunal. On the lower levels in this order are the circuit courts, the district courts and the city tribunals.
The federal court system of the state comprises of the United States Eastern Arkansas District Court, the United States Western Arkansas District Court, the US bankruptcy court for the eastern and western districts of Arkansas and the Federal Court of Appeals for the Eight District. The majority of legal matters are handled by the state district and circuit courts which have jurisdiction over specific geographical areas.
The Supreme Court of Arkansas: This is the apex tribunal in the state that not only has original and appellate jurisdiction but which also exerts administrative powers over the judicial network in the state. In fact the revisionary jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals is decided by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, cases that were handled by the appellate court can be taken to the apex tribunal if the sparring parties are dissatisfied by the verdict.
The Supreme Court can also hear cases that it feels should have been originally brought in front of it. The court of last resort is served by seven justices who are elected to eight year terms and a decision from this tribunal can only be contested in the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Court of Appeals: As its name suggests, this is the tribunal that handles the bulk of the cases appealed from the lower courts. The tribunal comprises of 1 chief justice and 11 judges who sit en banc or in panels of three to hear various cases. The Court of Appeals does not have discretionary jurisdiction but the tribunal does have mandatory jurisdiction in criminal cases that are not of a capital nature, civil matters and juvenile cases. Also, the tribunal handles administrative matters pertaining to the lower courts. The 12 judges of the appellate court are elected to 8 year terms.
The circuit courts: There are 28 circuit tribunals all across the state of Arkansas which are served by 121 judges who are elected to 6 year terms. Each of these courts is divided into 5 subdivisions: criminal, civil, probate, domestic relations and juvenile. For all rhyme and reason, the circuit courts are the general jurisdiction tribunals in the state that handle most civil and criminal matters.
As far as the civil jurisdiction of the tribunal goes, it can handle matters pertaining to real property ranging from a value of $100 to any maximum amount. Circuit courts have exclusive authority to rule in matters pertaining to mental health, probate and civil appeals from the district courts. Civil courts also hear all cases linked to juveniles, misdemeanor cases, DUI/DWI and felonies. Most trials conducted in these tribunals are decided on by a jury.
The district courts: There are 128 district tribunals in the state. The 113 judges who handle cases in these tribunals have the authority to hear cases pertaining to small claims and minor criminal. Circuit tribunals will only handle civil matters where the disputed amount is in the range of $0-$5000. Preliminary hearing in criminal matters and the issue of arrest warrants from AR are also tackled by these courts.
The city courts: At the base of the judicial ladder, the city courts are tribunals of limited jurisdiction. Across the state, there are 117 such courts which are served by 93 judges. In minor misdemeanor infractions, these tribunals will conduct the preliminary hearing and can also issue active warrants. Cases pertaining to DUI, traffic transgressions are handled by these courts.