The Arkansas General Assembly created the Arkansas Court of Appeals in 1979 and at the time appointed only six members. The original assembly’s motive was to provide relief to the Supreme Court. However, the massive workload required more. Therefore in 1993, the General Assembly added more judges for a total of nine and by 1997 the total grew to 12 judges. Each judge may serve an eight-year, renewable term.
Arkansas’ Court of Appeals is split into seven districts across the state. Each appeals court uses a panel of three judges to review cases from the Circuit Courts. Any final reviews must proceed to the Supreme Court. Any judge who sits on the Court of Appeals must have the same qualifications as the justices that sit on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decides which cases are reviewed that come from the Court of Appeals. There is no automatic right of a case to proceed directly to the highest court in the state without approval from the Supreme Court.
Any opinions made by Court of Appeal judges that are not published, cannot be publicly reviewed, distributed, copied or cited by any other court in the state. Published opinions may be used in briefs and as precedents in other cases. Sessions run between the middle of August until the 4th of July of the following year.
To qualify to be a Court of Appeals judge in Arkansas, the elected official must be at least 30 years old, and of good moral character. They must have a law degree and be a U.S. citizen. They must be an Arkansas resident for at least two years and have practiced law for eight years. In the event of a vacancy, the governor will appoint a judge to sit in its place until the next election. This judge is prohibited from running for that seat in the next election.