Laws and Court Cases

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Aaron v. Cooper

aka: Cooper v. Aaron
Aaron v. Cooper, reversed by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as Cooper v. Aaron, was the “other shoe dropping” after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas declared school segregation unconstitutional but did not lay out any clear guidelines for how to proceed with desegregation. The Supreme Court’s opinion in Cooper v. Aaron sent a message to segregated school districts nationwide that the Supreme Court would not tolerate attempts to evade or obstruct integration. The intervention of the executive branch in sending federal troops to Little Rock (Pulaski County) underscored the supremacy of the federal Constitution over state law and, arguably, added to the Court’s power and prestige. For …

Act 10 of 1958 [Affidavit Law]

A special session of the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 10 in 1958 as one of sixteen bills designed to bypass federal desegregation orders stemming from the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. The measure required state employees to list their political affiliations from the previous five years. Ostensibly, the act would root out subversives and other enemies of the state, but the underlying purpose was to expose National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) members on state payrolls so that they could be fired under Act 115, a law that forbade public employment of NAACP members. Pulaski County senator Artie Gregory designed the measure to root out subversives in the state’s educational institutions, but Governor Orval …

Act 112 of 1909

aka: Anti-Nightriding Law
aka: Anti-Whitecapping Law
Act 112 of 1909 was a law designed to curb the practice of nightriding or whitecapping, terms that encompass a range of vigilante practices typically carried out for 1) the intimidation of agricultural or industrial workers, typically by poor whites against African Americans, with the hope of driving them from their place of employment and thus positioning themselves to take over those jobs, or 2) the intimidation of farmers or landowners with the aim of preventing them from selling their crops at a time when the price for such was particularly low, done with the hope of raising the price for these goods. As such acts of vigilantism began to threaten the profits of landowners and industrialists, nightriding was prosecuted …

Act 115 of 1958 [Anti-NAACP Law]

In 1959, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 115 as one of sixteen bills designed to bypass federal desegregation orders stemming from the desegregation of Central High School. Act 115 outlawed state employment of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) members. Coupled with Act 10, a law designed to expose NAACP members on state payrolls by requiring state employees to list their political affiliations, Act 115 effectively punished the leaders of the desegregation effort in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Arkansas attorney general Bruce Bennett proposed the bill as part of a package of legislation that would “throw consternation into the ranks” of the NAACP, a group Bennett considered to be subversive. He hoped this package would keep …

Act 1220 of 2003

aka: Childhood Obesity Act
Act 1220 of 2003, which launched comprehensive efforts to curb childhood obesity in Arkansas, established one of the nation’s first statewide, school-focused initiatives to help children reach and maintain a healthy weight. Shaped largely by key legislators, including Senator Hershel Cleveland, with input from state and national public health experts, the act passed through the Arkansas General Assembly with strong support from the House and Senate under the administration of Governor Mike Huckabee. After passage, however, several components of the act faced vocal opposition. Opponents feared the largely unfunded mandates would strain educational and healthcare systems in addition to shaming overweight students. This vocal opposition prompted changes to the act in the years following its passage. Subsequent evaluation of Act …

Act 151 of 1859

aka: Act to Remove the Free Negroes and Mulattos from the State
aka: Arkansas's Free Negro Expulsion Act of 1859
The Arkansas General Assembly passed a bill in February 1859 that banned the residency of free African-American or mixed-race (“mulatto”) people anywhere within the bounds of the state of Arkansas. In 1846, the Statutes of Arkansas had legally defined mulatto as anyone who had one grandparent who was Negro. Free Negroes were categorized as “black” in the 1850 U.S. Census, so historians have adopted the term “free black” to refer to Negroes or mulattoes who were not enslaved. On February 12, 1859, Governor Elias N. Conway, who had supported removal, signed the bill into law, which required such free black people to leave the state by January 1, 1860, or face sale into slavery for a period of one year. …

Act 258 of 1909

aka: Toney Bill to Prevent Lynching
Act 258 of 1909 was a law intended to prevent citizens from engaging in lynching. It was not, strictly speaking, a piece of anti-lynching legislation, as it imposed no punishment for the crime of lynching. Instead, it aimed to expedite trials relating to particular crimes in order to render what would likely be a death penalty verdict to mollify the local population enough that they would not take the law into their own hands. Such a law as Act 258 is indicative of the connection between lynching and the modern death penalty observed by some scholars; as Michael J. Pfeifer noted in his 2011 book, The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching, legislators across the nation “reshaped the …

Act 38 of 1971

Act 38 of 1971, which reorganized sixty state government agencies into thirteen cabinet-level departments, was the culmination of reform efforts that had begun during the administration of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller but were only achieved under Governor Dale Bumpers, who was widely credited with the successful passage of the measure. Bumpers described the act, which was designed to increase the economy and efficiency of state government, as the most vital part of his legislative program. As the first general reorganization of state government in the twentieth century, Act 38 was hailed for simplifying state operations and curbing graft. Prior to Act 38, the governor had little authority to dismiss uncooperative or corrupt agency heads, who served at the pleasure of their …

Act 401 of 1951

aka: Communist Registration Act
Also called the Communist Registration Act, Act 401 was approved in March 1951 during the tenure of the Fifty-eighth Arkansas General Assembly. It was subtitled “An Act to Require Members of Certain Organizations Advocating the Unconstitutional Overthrow of the United States or of the State of Arkansas to Register With the State Police.” Ostensibly directed against members of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and affiliated organizations, Act 401 was passed in the context of the Second Red Scare following World War II. Act 401 did not emerge in a political vacuum, nor was this law unprecedented in Arkansas history. Act 401 was consistent with federal, state, and local legislation against “subversive organizations.” The law joined a long line of federal …

Act 911 of 1989

aka: Arkansas Conditional Release Program
  Act 911 of 1989 pertains to the evaluation, commitment, and conditional release of individuals acquitted of a crime when found Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect. The evaluation process, completed by a certified forensic psychologist or psychiatrist, assesses the defendant’s fitness to proceed to trial and, if the defendant is found fit to proceed, mental state at the time of the crime. If the defendant is found not fit to proceed, the proceedings against the defendant are suspended, and the court may commit him/her for detention, care, and treatment at the Arkansas State Hospital (ASH) until restoration of fitness to proceed. Once fit to proceed, a re-evaluation includes an assessment of mental state at the time …

Act 975 of 2015

aka: Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB975 of the 2015 regular legislative session) was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly and signed into law as Act 975 by Governor Asa Hutchinson. It closely aligns Arkansas law with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. Under the legislation, any governmental action in Arkansas that is a “substantial burden” to an individual’s free exercise of religion may only stand if it furthers a “compelling governmental interest” in the “least restrictive” manner possible. Like the federal RFRA, the Arkansas RFRA was meant to return to the “balancing test” established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sherbert v. Verner (1963) but overturned in the 1990 Employment Division v. …

Adverse Possession

Cornell Law School defines adverse possession as “a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it, so long as certain common law requirements are met, and the adverse possessor is in possession for a sufficient period of time, as defined by a statute of limitations.” Establishing or settling a title to certain real property (generally fixed property like land and buildings) often requires meeting all of certain specific factual requirements. That certainly is the case in Arkansas when the method for settling a title is application of the concept of adverse possession. Adverse possession cases often involve boundary line disputes or encroachments. The list of requirements for establishing title …

Albert Krantz v. City of Fort Smith

aka: Krantz v. City of Fort Smith
Albert Krantz v. City of Fort Smith was a 1998 decision by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the distribution and posting of flyers and leaflets. In a ruling informed by the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of expression, the Court of Appeals deemed unconstitutional town ordinances enacted by Alma (Crawford County), Dyer (Crawford County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and Van Buren (Crawford County) prohibiting the leafletting of vehicles parked in public spaces. The case originated with the arrests of Albert Krantz and other members of the Twentieth Century Holiness Tabernacle Church after they left religious leaflets under the windshield wipers of vehicles parked in public parking areas in Alma, Dyer, Fort Smith, and Van Buren in the early …

Amendment 33

Amendment 33 was the first of three constitutional amendments ratified by voters in the decade after the beginning of World War II to try to curb political interference with large government agencies and institutions. It prohibited the governor and the Arkansas General Assembly from diminishing the powers of state agencies and institutions, as well as from interfering with their governing boards by dismissing members before their terms expired or increasing or reducing the membership of the boards. The amendment, ratified in 1942, followed Governor Homer M. Adkins’s purging of the board of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in order to fire the university’s president J. William Fulbright, who was the son of a political foe of …

Amendment 44

aka: Interposition Amendment
On November 6, 1956, Arkansans voted to adopt an amendment to the state constitution that would allow Arkansas law to supersede federal law. The “interposition” amendment, as it was called, was in response to the looming integration of Arkansas schools. Similar amendments were adopted across the South after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional. Although the idea of interposition gained popularity in 1954, the precedence for the argument can be traced back to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions put forth by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in 1798 and 1799. James D. “Justice Jim” Johnson, an Arkansas politician from Crossett (Ashley County), first presented the idea of an interposition …

Amendment 59

aka: Taxation Amendment
Amendment 59 was an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, ratified by voters overwhelmingly in 1980, that overhauled the system of valuing and taxing private property. It quickly became known for its bewildering complexity—an Arkansas Supreme Court opinion called it “the Godzilla of constitutional amendments”—and for its damaging effect on the financing of public schools. The amendment and its various interpretations had a major role in the long legislative and judicial battles over school reform and tax reform (as with the court cases Jim DuPree v. Alma School District No. 30 and Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee). The valuing of private property, both real and personal, had long been a divisive issue, owing to the property tax’s role …

Amendments 19 and 20

aka: Futrell Amendments
Amendments 19 and 20 to the Arkansas Constitution, which are commonly referred to as the Futrell Amendments, sharply restricted the ability of the legislature to levy taxes, spend the funds, and incur debt. Ratified in the general election in 1934, the amendments went beyond the laws of any other state in limiting the fiscal powers of the legislature and were supposed to guarantee austere and limited government for posterity. The restrictions on borrowing stated in Amendment 20, which required a statewide popular vote before the state could borrow money for public improvements, were loosened in 1986 by Amendment 65, after the Arkansas Supreme Court handed down a strict interpretation that seemed to outlaw what were known as “revenue bonds,” which the …

Anti-miscegenation Laws

Anti-miscegenation laws were edicts that made it unlawful for African Americans and white people to marry or engage each other in intimate relationships. The measures first appeared in the United States in colonial times and had two functions. First, the laws helped maintain the racial caste system necessary for the expansion of slavery and the idea of white supremacy. If white masters took slave women as lovers and fathered children by them, anti-miscegenation laws ensured that the children remained slaves because the illicit nature of the relationships left biracial children with none of their father’s free status. Second, anti-miscegenation statutes gave white men greater power to control the sexual choices of white women. In the colonial period, white patriarchs used …

Arkansas Cannon, Seizure of

aka: United States v. Six Boxes of Arms
This court case involved the seizure of a cannon in the North intended for a state in the South on the cusp of secession and, thereby, epitomized the political and military tensions that characterized the final months of sectional breakdown prior to the Civil War. The decision rendered in this case also established an important legal precedent in relation to lawful seizure of property and the retention of legal ownership with war on the horizon. On February 15, 1861, William J. Syms and Samuel R. Syms of the New York City munitions supply firm of W. J. Syms and Brother contracted with the State of Arkansas for an order of munitions to be delivered in two parts in early April. …

Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993

aka: Act 962 of 1993
The Arkansas Civil Rights Act (ACRA) was the first civil rights act in Arkansas covering discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, gender, or the presence of any sensory, physical, or mental disability. The passing of this act, Act 962 of 1993, was the culmination of the work of the Governors’ Task Force on Civil Rights, which was formed in 1991 by Governor Bill Clinton. The legislation was sponsored in the Arkansas Senate by Senator Bill Lewellen. In the early 1990s, most Arkansans reportedly did not feel that it was necessary to have a civil rights bill. However, Arkansas was one of only a few states at the time lacking such a law. Consensus was that the bill was passed …

Arkansas Freedom of Information Act

aka: Freedom of Information Act
aka: FOIA
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), signed into law by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller on February 14, 1967, is generally considered one of the strongest and best models for open government by investigative reporters and others who research public records for various purposes. The intent of the FOIA is to keep government business and government records open and accessible to the people of Arkansas. The Arkansas FOIA has been called “the people’s law” in that it provides the citizens of Arkansas open access to the conduct of the public’s business at every level of government, as well as ready access to public records on file with a host of custodians for those records in county courthouses, city halls, public schools, …

Arkansas Married Woman’s Property Law

Under the common law that prevailed in all American jurisdictions except Louisiana, once a woman married, all her property passed to her husband. During the nineteenth century, some of the American states began to chip away at what Judge Jno. R. Eakin styled “the old and barbarous common law doctrine.” Arkansas played a leading role in this development; in 1835, Arkansas Territory passed the first law in the nation bestowing on married women the right to keep property in their own names. Two factors influenced the law’s adoption. First, in western areas, men outnumbered women, thus giving the women who were there more power. Second, planters were interested in protecting the bequests made to their daughters from being squandered by …

Arkansas v. Corbit (1998)

There are three cases that may be designated as Arkansas v. Corbit. The case discussed here is the 1998 Arkansas Supreme Court case concerning Randy Corbit, who was arrested for the possession and sale of marijuana, and the subsequent property forfeitures that he faced. Although the case originally appeared insignificant, it ultimately set a groundbreaking new precedent for appeal structure. Randy Corbit, who lived in Phillips County, was under investigation by the First and Third Judicial Districts’ Drug Task Force and, specifically, by Michael Steele, who was a narcotics investigator. On the day of Corbit’s arrest, Steele sent two men, Christopher Jarrett and Edward Knapp, into the store where Corbit worked. These men were charged with the task of purchasing …

Austin v. The State

Slaves in the United States had no legal rights and only limited access to legal protection, so few legal cases in antebellum Arkansas involved African Americans. Even fewer of those cases were ever reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. However, a case in 1854 established a new principle for Arkansas courts that allowed slave owners to testify in criminal cases involving their own slaves. The murder trial of Austin, a slave in Independence County, was appealed to the state’s high court on several procedural issues, one of which was the denial of his owner’s testimony. The court found that such testimony must be permitted, thus throwing out the circuit court’s decision and ordering a new trial. The event that led …

Baptist Health v. Murphy

Baptist Health v. Murphy was an extended legal battle culminating in a 2010 ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Addressing the issue of economic credentialing, and resolving a dispute that had first entered the judicial system in February 2004, the court eventually ruled in favor of a group of doctors whose part ownership in competing hospitals had been deemed a violation of the contracting hospital’s conflict of interest policy, which had resulted in the severance of their association and employment. In its ruling, the court upheld a previously issued permanent injunction, and Baptist Health was permanently prevented from implementing the policy. The genesis of the case was the adoption in May 2003 of the Economic Conflict of Interest Policy by …

Blue Laws

Arkansas’s first blue laws, also called Sunday-closing laws, were enacted in 1837, only a year after Arkansas’s statehood. Though no blue laws have been in effect since 1982, they influenced the state’s culture and commerce for nearly a century and a half. Blue laws have been part of American history since people began emigrating from Europe, where the laws were common. Virginia established the first blue law in the American colonies in 1610. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbidding the establishment of religion may have called into question the legality of Sunday-closing laws, but it did not stop nearly all states from adopting them. Historically, courts have ruled that state legislatures could proclaim a weekly day of rest …

Campaign Finance Laws

In the modern era, through a combination of legislation and initiated acts, the state of Arkansas has developed a system of campaign finance laws for state elections. While critics charge that the system has problematic holes within it that allow money to unduly influence policymakers’ decisions, it is a system that is now in the mainstream of American states and is generally strong in terms of the disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures. Such contributions and expenditures were completely unregulated in Arkansas until the mid-1970s, when an initial campaign finance law was passed (Act 788 of 1975). This came a year after the first major federal campaign finance legislation was passed following the Watergate scandal in which quid pro quo …

City of Hot Springs v. Creviston

The Arkansas Supreme Court upended fifty-two years of financial practice by Arkansas cities and counties and numerous decisions of the Supreme Court when it ruled on March 3, 1986, that the Arkansas Constitution required the state and local governments to get voters’ approval before issuing bonds for capital improvements or any other purpose. The decision, in a case styled City of Hot Springs v. Tom Creviston, stunned local governments and financial institutions and briefly halted the issuance of financial instruments called revenue bonds, which were debts that were to be repaid from revenues generated by the project rather than from taxes. But a constitutional amendment to lift the election requirement was hastily drafted, petitions placed it on the ballot, and …

Clinton v. Jones

The U.S. Supreme Court case Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997) had the immediate impact of allowing a civil suit filed against President Bill Clinton to proceed while he was in office. In fact, although the case arose from an alleged incident that occurred before Clinton assumed the presidency, his status as president was central to the arguments the Supreme Court had to address. Ultimately, the decision’s more far-reaching impact directly affected the presidency on multiple levels. First, the Court’s ruling both reinforced and extended the idea that the president is not above the law, a concept that had been at the heart of the legal issues surrounding the Watergate affair. In addition, statements made by Clinton in the …

Collins v. State

In 1972, with the Furman v. Georgia case, the U.S. Supreme Court suspended use of the death penalty throughout the nation because it found the capital punishment system to be unconstitutional due to arbitrary enforcement. The Furman decision allowed individual states to revise their capital punishment statutes in order to eliminate the subjectivity of the death penalty. Arkansas revised its statutes in March 1973, and in the 1977 Collins v. State case, the Arkansas Supreme Court defended these newly revised statutes. In 1974, Carl Albert Collins was convicted of the murder of John Welch, his employer. Collins first attacked Welch’s wife, Gertrude, and then shot Welch. Collins left both for dead, stole Welch’s wallet, and took his truck. Though John …

Consensual Guardianship

The legal matter of consensual guardianship deals with a parent who consents to allow another person to be the guardian of a child and later revokes that consent. This situation usually arises when a parent is temporarily unable to raise a child (perhaps because of illness, financial problems, or criminal issues) and allows a family member or friend to be guardian. Over the years, the legal system in Arkansas first favored the guardian in these situations, then came to favor the parent, then slightly turned back to favoring the guardian. Although the Uniform Probate Code (adopted in whole or in part by many states) expressly states that a parent may consent to a guardianship (§ 5-204), the Arkansas guardianship statutes …

Convent Inspection Act of 1915

aka: Act 130 of 1915
aka: Posey Act
The Convent Inspection Act was passed by the Arkansas General Assembly and signed by Governor George Washington Hays in March 1915. The act was not unique to Arkansas, as states such as Georgia and Florida had similar laws. The Arkansas law allowed for sheriffs and constables to inspect convents, hospitals, asylums, seminaries, and rectories on a regular basis. The purpose, as stated in one section, was “to afford every person within the confines of said institutions, the fullest opportunity to divulge the truth to their detention therein.” If twelve citizens petitioned local authorities, law enforcement could enter these facilities day or night without notice. Whatever the stated intention of the legislation, one writer in the Arkansas Gazette on February 17, …

Coronado Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of America

aka: United Mine Workers of America v. Coronado Coal Co.
Coronado Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of America refers here to two separate cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court during the tenure of Chief Justice William Howard Taft. Both arose from Arkansas’s Sebastian County Union War of 1914 and featured the same parties: the Coronado Coal Company and District No. 21, a local Arkansas branch of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The first case, United Mine Workers of America v. Coronado Coal Co. (1922), was an appeal that ruled in favor of the union. It overturned a lower court decision by the Court of Appeals that found the union in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act during the strike. The Supreme Court, however, found little evidence that …

Daisy Bates et al. v. City of Little Rock

aka: Bates v. City of Little Rock
Daisy Bates et al. v. City of Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516 (1960) was a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a number of the state’s local ordinances that had been enacted in an effort to harass and hamper the efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other civil rights advocates. It was one of a series of cases that arose when the region’s local white power structure—seeking to fight back against the federal court decisions and black activist–sponsored direct action that threatened to bring an end to the South’s longtime legally mandated Jim Crow practices—undertook harassment campaigns against the civil rights leaders. In Little Rock (Pulaski County), this harassment took …

Dodson v. Arkansas Activities Association

Dodson v. Arkansas Activities Association (1979) was a federal court decision concerning the rules for girls’ junior high and high school basketball in Arkansas. Diana Lee Dodson, then a fourteen-year-old student in the Arkadelphia (Clark County) public school system, filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA), the governing body of public and private school athletic programs, asking that girls in Arkansas be permitted to play under the same full-court basketball rules as Arkansas boys played. Arkansas schools at that time required that basketball for girls be played under “half-court” rules. In this version of the game, which had been played in Arkansas and other states since at least the World War II era, girls’ teams had six players. …

Dove v. Parham

Dove v. Parham was a federal desegregation lawsuit filed in the fall of 1959 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas. The suit was filed by attorney George Howard Jr. on behalf of three African-American students who were denied transfer to the all-white Dollarway School District. The lawsuit would eventually reach the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The saga of Dove v. Parham began in 1954 when a member of the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), William Dove, along with a small group of African-American citizens, requested that the Dollarway School District desegregate. The group’s request was denied. In 1957, Dove repeated his request to transfer his five …

Election Law of 1891

The passage of the Election Law of 1891 was essential to the solidification of power in the state for Democrats during the post-Reconstruction era and was the first step in making Arkansas a one-party state. In conjunction with the subsequent Poll Tax Amendment, controversially passed during the 1892 general election, the Election Law of 1891 effectively disfranchised African Americans in Arkansas and legally suppressed Republican and third-party political opposition. By 1888, Democratic Party officials in Arkansas were expressing concern about perceived election fraud in the state and the threat of federal oversight of state elections. Evidence of widespread election fraud and the highly publicized murder of Republican candidate John M. Clayton brought about mounting calls for election reform legislation. After much …

Eminent Domain

The Arkansas and U.S. Constitutions permit the process of eminent domain, which is the taking of private property for public purposes as long as there is just compensation paid to the owner, legal authorization for the taking, and an observance of procedural due process. Eminent domain can be used to obtain property for public purposes such as improvement districts, electric power lines, natural-gas pipelines, irrigation and drainage companies, cemeteries, roadways, bridges, dams, and state colleges and universities. Interpretation of the term “public purpose” has produced much of the case law on eminent domain, including Pfeifer v. City of Little Rock, a 2001 Arkansas case, and Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case; these cases …

Epperson v. Arkansas

Epperson v. Arkansas, a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, challenged the right of a state to outlaw the teaching of evolution in public schools. On November 12, 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that Arkansas’s Initiated Act Number 1, an antievolution law approved by Arkansas voters in 1928, violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional, thus setting a legal trend for the nation as a whole. The antievolution movement in Arkansas came into its own just as it was declining nationwide. The 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial made fundamentalist groups objects of ridicule and thus sent them retreating from the cultural and political mainstream. In January 1927, however, State Representative Astor L. Rotenberry of Pulaski …

Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee equal rights for women. Sent to the states in the spring of 1972, it fell short of the required ratification by three-quarters—thirty-eight—of the states. Arkansas was one of the fifteen states that did not ratify the amendment by the deadline established in the congressional directive sending the amendment to the states. However, it has periodically become the object of renewed efforts at ratification. The amendment, which was passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress in 1972 and then sent on to the states for ratification, states: Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United …

Featherstone v. Cate

  In the Arkansas election of 1888, Agricultural Wheel members and other groups formed the Union Labor Party and allied with the Republicans to offer a serious challenge to the Democrats. In 1889, the Featherstone v. Cate congressional hearings resulted from allegations of election fraud in the race for U.S. representative from Arkansas’s First Congressional District, a district comprising seventeen eastern counties including Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Lee, Phillips, and St. Francis. In 1888, the race for first district representative pitted Independent candidate Lewis P. Featherstone of Forrest City (St. Francis County) against Democratic judge William Henderson Cate of Jonesboro (Craighead County). Initially, the election results showed Cate the winner with 15,576 votes to Featherstone’s 14,238. In late November 1888, Featherstone, alleging fraud in Crittenden, Cross, …

Finney v. Hutto

aka: Hutto v. Finney
In this series of landmark court cases, prisoners at the Cummins Farm and Tucker Intermediate Reformatory units of the Arkansas prison system continued to challenge their conditions of confinement, several years after Chief Judge J. Smith Henley of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas declared in Holt v. Sarver I (1969) and Holt v. Sarver II (1970) that confinement in the prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment, violating the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments. Judge Henley called the conditions that prisoners faced “a dark and evil world completely alien to the free world.” The prisoners were represented by attorneys Jack Holt Jr. and Philip Kaplan of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Henley’s original decision ordered the Arkansas Department of Correction to remedy the …

Fort Smith Sedition Trial of 1988

For seven weeks beginning on February 16, 1988, Fort Smith (Sebastian County) was the site of a major trial in which a twelve-person jury sought to determine the guilt or innocence of fourteen right-wing radicals who were charged with a variety of crimes, most prominently conspiracy to engage in sedition. After hearing from a total of almost 200 witnesses, the jury found none of the defendants guilty. In the almost two-month-long proceeding, federal prosecutors presented evidence intended to prove that ten of the defendants had conspired and plotted to overthrow the federal government while also asserting that the others were guilty of trying to kill a federal judge and a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent. According to the scenario …

Gary v. Stevenson

The Arkansas State Supreme Court adjudicated Gary v. Stevenson, a freedom suit and racial-identity trial, in 1858. It was one of an increasing number of racial-identity suits in the South during the last decade before the Civil War. In this case, Thomas Gary sued slaveholder Remson Stevenson in an attempt to win his freedom from slavery. Gary, aged about sixteen in 1858, whom witnesses described as having sandy-colored hair and blue eyes, appeared to be white. He contended that he was lawfully free because he was the white son of white parents. Stevenson, a slaveholder in Van Buren (Crawford County), countered that Gary was the child of an enslaved mother and therefore not white; this made him a slave for …

Gent v. Arkansas

Gent v. Arkansas was a U.S. Supreme Court case in which an Arkansas law designed to eliminate the distribution of obscene material was challenged. Though it did not touch directly upon the limits of the state’s ability to control obscenity, it did reinforce legal opinion that standards for obscenity must be those applied by the U.S. Supreme Court rather than local standards. In 1961, the Arkansas legislature passed Act 261, which, among other things, purported to eliminate obscene material, which was defined by the current community standards applied by the average person. The legislature based the wording of Act 261 on a model act drafted by the Council for Periodical Distributors Associations (CPDA) designed to give public prosecutors the authority …

Grand Gulf Affair

Grand Gulf Nuclear Generating Station is the name of a nuclear-powered electricity-generating station at Port Gibson on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River downstream from Vicksburg, Mississippi. Issues surrounding the financing of this station convulsed politics in Arkansas for the last two decades of the twentieth century. Between 1985, when the power station began producing electricity, and 2012, customers of Entergy Arkansas, Inc., and its predecessor, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), had to pay $4.5 billion—about $6,500 per customer—to operate the Mississippi plant and subsidize Louisiana ratepayers under the terms of old agreements among the four utilities in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana owned by Middle South Utilities, a holding company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. The prospect of Arkansas’s …

Guy v. Daniel

aka: Abby Guy v. William Daniel
Abby Guy v. William Daniel was a freedom suit and racial identity case brought before the Arkansas Supreme Court in January 1861. The case originated in the Ashley County Circuit Court in July 1855 when Abby Guy sued William Daniel, whom she said wrongfully held her and her children in slavery. According to Guy, she and her family were free white people. After a jury decided in favor of Guy, Daniel appealed the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which, in the end, declined to overturn the lower court’s verdict. Guy and her children were freed. Racial identity trials, in which the outcome rested on whether or not one party was white, were not unusual in the South. Guy v. …

Hammond Packing Company v. Arkansas

The U.S. Supreme Court heard only one case from Arkansas among several important antitrust lawsuits during the Progressive Era, a time when many states were waging crusades against big-business monopolies: Hammond Packing Company v. Arkansas, 212 U.S. 322 (1909). The state won, and the Court’s decision provided a remedy for corporate obstruction in the discovery phase of litigation and established an important precedent that became a cornerstone of Rule 37 in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Using a 1905 Arkansas antitrust law, Robert L. Rogers, who was the state’s attorney general, and Lewis Rhoton, prosecuting attorney in Pulaski County, waged numerous antitrust lawsuits. Several were aimed at the so-called “Beef Trust,” seeking penalties ranging from $30,000 to $7 million, as …

Hodges v. United States

  Hodges v. United States, 203 U.S. 1 (1906) is a U.S. Supreme Court case resulting in the overturning of the convictions of three white men convicted in 1903 of conspiring to prevent a group of African-American workers from holding jobs in a lumber mill in Whitehall (Poinsett County), a small town in northeastern Arkansas. It was overruled by another Supreme Court decision in 1968, but the decision in Hodges represented an important step in the evolving judicial interpretation of the constitutional amendments passed in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Court’s decision imposed a strict limitation on the application of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime), as …

Holt v. Sarver

In the landmark Arkansas case Holt v. Sarver, inmates of the racially segregated Cummins Farm and Tucker Intermediate Reformatory units of the Arkansas prison system brought suit against the commissioner of corrections, Robert Sarver, and the Arkansas Board of Corrections, challenging their conditions of confinement. The case was heard in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division, before Chief Judge J. Smith Henley. Holt v. Sarver was a turning point in the history of court intervention in the management of American prisons. The decision marked the end of the “hands-off” era of the federal judiciary toward prisoners and the beginning of an era of prisoners’ rights. Holt v. Sarver, which inspired the 1980 film …