Arkansas State Court System

  • Local District Courts: This Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. This court has jurisdiction over civil cases of $5,000 or less involving contracts and damage to or recovery of personal property. In addition, the district court has exclusive jurisdiction for contract matters of $100 or less. Local District Courts also have a small claims division.
  • State District Courts: This Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The court has jurisdiction over civil matters involving contracts, damage to and recovery of personal property in cases of $25,000 or less. There is a small claims division where citizens can represent themselves in cases involving contracts and personal property of $5,000 or less. State District Courts can also hear certain matters referred from the circuit court. In addition, the district court has exclusive jurisdiction for contract matters of $100 or less.
  • Circuit Courts: The Circuit Court is Arkansas’ court of general jurisdiction and have original jurisdiction over all matters not assigned to other courts by the Arkansas Constitution. The Circuit Court has concurrent jurisdiction with District Court on many matters. District Court cases can be appealed to the Circuit Court for a trial de novo.
  • Court of Appeals: The Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court of the state of Arkansas. It hears cases brought up on appeal from the Circuit Courts.
  • Supreme Court of Arkansas: The Supreme Court is the highest court in Arkansas. There is no appeal as of right from the Court of Appeals, rather the Supreme Court has discretion to decide which cases to review from the lower court.

*Some of the above courts in the Arkansas State Court System also have jurisdiction over certain criminal proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 30 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.

Discovery

After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:

  • Written Discovery is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:

    • Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
    • Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
  • Depositions – In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Before the lawsuit goes to trial, the parties may elect to schedule a mediation to attempt to resolve the matter. This involves both parties meeting with a neutral arbiter who will facilitate the process of coming to a mutually agreeable settlement rather than proceed to trial. The Arkansas Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission encourages, promotes, and develops the voluntary use of alternative dispute resolution processes to resolve disputes, cases and controversies.

Trial

If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.

Motions and Appeals

After the jury returns their verdict, the parties may file post trial motions and/or appeal the verdict to the appropriate appellate court in Arkansas.

DISCLAIMER:

The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.

By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Arkansas. Should you have a question/concern specific to Arkansas law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Arkansas.