The Secret Laws of Arkansas The History and Economics of Split Judical Districts
AuthorCrow, Gerald Kent
AdvisorRichardson, James T
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UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENOTHE SECRET LAWS OF ARKANSAS ABSTRACTIn the years between 1875 and 1913 the Arkansas State Legislature passed a series of Acts which divided thirteen counties into judicial districts now referred to as split districts. These Acts were never codified and, although they are still valid law, their contents are virtually unknown to the public officials who are responsible for implementing their provisions and nearly inaccessible to the public. Many of these Acts went far beyond the stated purpose of creating judicial jurisdictions and divided the finances of the counties and created other administrative responsibilities. The impact of the failure to codify the law is, first and foremost, making compliance with the provisions of the law impossible. But the failure has also given rise to a wide misconception that these counties have two county seats of government and this belief has become so ingrained in State culture that it operates as a barrier to the elimination of the districts. It is virtually a "third rail" that politicians and judges fear to touch.The historic basis for the creation of these split judicial districts has never been examined in any systematic way nor has the necessity for their continued existence been reviewed. The author contends that the rationale for the creation of the districts was based in political struggles for the location of the county seats and devised by politicians to circumvent the provisions of the State Constitution's limitations on the creation of new counties or county seats. These political struggles were grounded in local economic conditions and today the continued existence of these districts imposes an unnecessary economic burden on the taxpayers of these counties. It is further contended that there is a discernible pattern in events that lead to the creation of the split districts and the author further concludes that the local option to eliminate these districts should be restored through legislation.
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