Laws and Court Cases

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Initiatives and Referenda

Arkansas’s adoption of key elements of “direct democracy” (specifically, a statewide initiative and referendum process) stands out in the South. The fact that Arkansas adds another policymaking body—the voters of the state acting at the ballot box on measures placed on the ballot through their own petition signatures—to the typical representative system of democracy continues to shape the political rules of the game in Arkansas a century after the process’s creation. It also reflects the legacies of the Progressive and Populist political movements in the state. Proponents of direct democracy—the initiative, referendum, and recall—argued that taking total decision-making power away from legislative bodies could lessen the influence of special interests, reduce corruption in politics generally, and more fully empower rank-and-file …

J. R. Poisson v. Etienne d’Avril

J. R. Poisson v. Etienne d’Avril is a purported opinion of the Arkansas Supreme Court that was published as an April Fool’s Day joke by Associate Justice George Rose Smith on April 1, 1968. In the opinion, he declares that a fictional Arkansas statute (the “Omnibus Repealer”) abrogates all statutory law in Arkansas but does not affect the common law. George Rose Smith was known for his wry sense of humor. He was a grandson of Uriah Rose, the founder of the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and served as a partner in the firm until his election to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1948. He holds the record as the longest-serving justice in the history of …

Jegley v. Picado

Larry Jegley v. Elena Picado, et al. was a 2002 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court that struck down Arkansas’s sodomy law, which criminalized homosexual behavior. It was the first time that the Supreme Court removed a legal prohibition against homosexual relationships, and the decision was cited many times the next dozen years by state and federal courts in several states that invalidated such laws. Sodomy laws preceded American independence. The colonies criminalized homosexual acts, which were often death-penalty offenses. Sodomy was a felony in every state until 1962, when states began to liberalize the laws. In 1975, Arkansas attorney general Jim Guy Tucker submitted a lengthy bill to the Arkansas General Assembly that overhauled and recodified the state’s criminal laws. The …

Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws were statutes passed in most of the Southern states between the 1880s and 1960s that separated the races and created a segregated society. Exactly why these laws were implemented at this time is unclear, although scholars believe that they may have been a response to the breakdown of traditional barriers between black and white people in the post-Reconstruction era. This breakdown was made possible by expansion of the South’s railroads, development of urban areas and industrial workplaces, and the progress African Americans made economically during this period. Whatever the reason for the timing of their passage, these laws reflected prevalent anti-black racism and the views of contemporary whites, who asserted that African Americans represented an inferior and …

Jim DuPree v. Alma School District No. 30

Jim DuPree et al. v. Alma School District No. 30 et al. was a lawsuit that triggered twenty-five years of litigation and legislation to raise the quality of and increase funding for public education in Arkansas. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on the suit on May 31, 1983, concluding that the state government had consistently failed to provide the money and programs that would guarantee a suitable education for all children in Arkansas regardless of where they lived. The decision was the springboard that Governor Bill Clinton used that fall to push a raft of education reforms—including higher taxes—through the Arkansas General Assembly and the state Board of Education. A decade later, the issues were revived by a succession of …

Kessler v. Strecker

Kessler v. Strecker was a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1939 concerning the arrest and planned deportation of Joseph George (a.k.a. Josef or Joe Georg) Strecker, a Hot Springs (Garland County) restaurant owner, for alleged membership in the Communist Party. This case happened around the time Texas congressman Martin Dies was publicly demanding the deportation of International Longshoremen’s Association head Harry Bridges for similar reasons. When Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins refused to act on Bridges’s case until Strecker’s case was settled, Republicans began impeachment proceedings against her. Born on August 29, 1888, in Galicia, then a part of Austria-Hungary, Strecker immigrated to the United States in 1912 and worked in coal mines before settling in Hot Springs, running a …

Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee

The court case Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee examined the structure for the funding of Arkansas schools in a grueling, fifteen-year process. This case led to the subsequent overhaul of public school funding with the aim to be more fair and exact and to benefit all Arkansas students equally. In 1992, the school district of Lake View (Phillips County) first brought its case against the State of Arkansas, claiming that the funding system for the public schools violated both the state’s constitution and the U.S. Constitution because it was inequitable and inadequate. At that time, schools received funding from three levels of government: local, state, and federal. Because some local governments had more tax money available for …

Laman v. McCord

aka: W. F. Laman, et al. v. Robert S. McCord, et al.
W. F. Laman, et al. v. Robert S. McCord, et al. was a 1968 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court that established the framework for interpreting the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in ways that favored public access to meetings and government papers. The lawsuit leading to the decision of the Supreme Court was filed only weeks after the Arkansas General Assembly enacted the FOIA. The law gave the public and the media the right to examine and copy public records and to be present whenever governmental bodies met. The unanimous opinion used unusually strong language in condemning a violation of the new act at a closed meeting of the city council of North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and …

Landlord-Tenant Laws

Landlord-tenant law is divided into two types: residential and commercial. Because commercial landlord-tenant law is governed mostly by the law of contracts, this discussion is restricted in scope to residential landlord-tenant law. Landlord-tenant relations are regulated generally by state law as opposed to federal, although a few relevant federal laws, most notably the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), preempt any conflicting state law. Public and Section 8 housing is also regulated mostly by federal law. About half of the states have enacted the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, which was adopted by the Uniform Law Commission in 1972. Since then, the uniform law was repeatedly introduced in Arkansas to no avail, but in …

Little Rock School Desegregation Cases (1982–2014)

aka: Little Rock School District, et al v. Pulaski County Special School District et al.
From 1982 until 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division, handled Little Rock School District, et al. v. Pulaski County Special School District et al. At least six federal district judges presided over the case during this span of time. In 1984, the district court ruled that three school districts situated in Pulaski County were unconstitutionally segregated: the Little Rock School District (LRSD), the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD), and the North Little Rock School District (NLRSD). One reason for the ruling was that the population of Little Rock was approximately sixty-five percent white in 1984, while seventy percent of Little Rock School District students were black. Those who brought the case feared …

Marisa N. Pavan, et al. v. Nathaniel Smith

aka: Pavan v. Smith
Pavan v. Smith (2017) was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that clarified the legal parenting rights for the non-biological partner in a same-sex marriage. Rather than hearing oral arguments on the matter, the Court summarily rejected the decision of the Arkansas State Supreme Court denying a wife of a mother the opportunity to be listed as a parent on the couple’s child’s birth certificate, a privilege that was presumptively granted to husbands under Arkansas law. In 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws that barred same-sex marriage violated the Due Process and Equal Protections Clauses of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. Following that victory for marriage equality advocates, the Arkansas State Supreme Court acted …

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education

The 1981–82 federal court case McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education constituted a challenge to the state’s Act 590, which mandated the equal treatment of creation science in classrooms where evolution was taught. On January 5, 1982, U.S. District Court Judge William R. Overton ruled Act 590 unconstitutional in light of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. His determination that creationism constituted a religious doctrine rather than a scientific theory had a profound impact on the nation, the ramifications of which are still being felt today. The draft of the model act which eventually became Act 590 originated in an Anderson, South Carolina, organization called Citizens for Fairness in Education. Its founder, Paul Ellwanger, working from a model prepared …

Mitchell v. Globe International Publishing

aka: People's Bank and Trust Company of Mountain Home v. Globe International Publishing
Mitchell v. Globe International Publishing, Inc. 978 F. 2nd 1065 was a legal case involving First Amendment freedom of the press, as well as privacy issues. It originated in a lawsuit filed by ninety-six-year-old Nellie Mitchell, a native of Mountain Home (Baxter County). Mitchell sued Globe International, the publisher of the tabloid paper the Sun, for false light invasion of privacy after the paper published a photograph of her to illustrate one of its articles. When the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mitchell and awarded her a total of $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, Globe appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which upheld the verdict. A final effort to appeal to …

Mitchell v. United States

Mitchell v. United States et al., 313 U.S. 80 (1941), came on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging discriminatory treatment of railroad accommodations for African-American passengers on interstate train coaches passing through Arkansas, where a state law demanded segregation of races but equivalent facilities. The Supreme Court had held in earlier cases that it was adequate under the Fourteenth Amendment for separate privileges to be supplied to differing groups of people as long as they were treated similarly well. Originating in Arkansas in April 1937, the suit worked its way through the regulatory and legal system, finally ending up on the calendar of the Supreme Court in 1941. The circumstances surrounding the matter began after the only African American …

Moore v. Dempsey

The 1923 U.S. Supreme Court decision Moore v. Dempsey changed the nature of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ruling allowed for federal courts to hear and examine evidence in state criminal cases to ensure that defendants had received due process. The case that resulted in this decision was one of two lawsuits pursued by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the aftermath of the 1919 Elaine Massacre. After short trials, dominated by citizen mobs, twelve African Americans—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six who became known as the Ware defendants—were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Ultimately, the six Ware defendants were freed by the Arkansas …

Morrilton School District No. 32 et al. v. United States of America

Morrilton School District No. 32 et al. v. United States of America was a school desegregation case that began in 1972. However, aspects of the lengthy litigation were still being contested into the mid-1980s. The case began in December 1972 when the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Education, the members of the state Board of Education, and the school districts of Conway County, as well as the local school board members and superintendents. The federal government charged that, in the process of consolidating the county’s school districts in response to a federal desegregation order, the school officials had in fact purposely created segregated school districts and, in doing so, had …

Morrison v. White

Morrison v. White was a case involving slavery in which, after numerous legal twists and turns, Jane/Alexina Morrison, who claimed to be a free white woman from Arkansas, was granted her freedom by a Louisiana district court jury in 1862. As did several other freedom suits of the time (such as Guy v. Daniel and Gary v. Stevenson), this one went well beyond the usual issue of ownership and addressed the fundamental question of who could, in fact, be enslaved—and, in particular, whether a white person could be a slave. Unlike the famous case of Dred Scott, a black man whose claim to freedom was based on his residence in a statutorily free area of the country, Jane/Alexina Morrison rested …

Neal v. Still

Neal v. Still was a case decided by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1970 that addressed issues of free speech and free expression. After thoughtful deliberations, the Arkansas Supreme Court held that the statute under which the alleged violators, Joe and Barbara Neal, were arrested and charged was unconstitutionally vague and violated the free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The case had its roots in the February 21, 1969, arrest of Joe Neal and his wife, Barbara Wink Neal, on the campus of Henderson State College (now Henderson State University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). The couple, who were distributing information at the college’s Student Union Building, was charged with violating Act 17 of 1958, which prohibited creating a …

One Drop Rule

aka: Act 320 of 1911
aka: House Bill 79 of 1911
In 1911, Arkansas passed Act 320 (House Bill 79), also known as the “one-drop rule.” This law had two goals: it made interracial “cohabitation” a felony, and it defined as “Negro” anyone “who has…any negro blood whatever,” thus relegating to second-class citizenship anyone accused of having any African ancestry. Although the law had features unique to Arkansas, it largely reflected nationwide trends. Laws against interracial sex were not new. Virginia declared extramarital sex a crime during Oliver Cromwell’s era and increased the penalty for sex across the color line in 1662. In 1691, Virginia criminalized matrimony when celebrated by an interracial couple. Maryland did so the following year, and others followed. By 1776, twelve of the thirteen colonies that declared …

Phillips, et al. v. Weeks, et al.

Phillips, et al. v. Weeks, et al. was a sweeping lawsuit in federal district court at Little Rock (Pulaski County) alleging that the municipal police engaged in systematic discrimination against African Americans, including illegal detention, physical brutality, verbal abuse, and segregation in jail. The class-action suit was filed in January 1972, and the trial lasted two and a half months in 1974–1975. The case languished in the court for another eight years before all the issues were finally settled, with only a partial victory for the class of people for whom the suit was filed. U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele eventually ordered an end to jail segregation and to the illegal detention of blacks, an infamous system in which …

Raney v. Board of Education

aka: Arthur Lee Raney v. Board of Education of the Gould School District
Raney v. Board of Education, a lawsuit originating in Gould (Lincoln County), was one of three cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April and May 1968 that brought an end to so-called “freedom of choice” school desegregation plans that had gained traction in the 1960s. In the 1964–65 school year, ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, Gould schools were still totally segregated. The district covered an area of eighty square miles and contained 3,000 residents. Of these, 1,800 were black and 1,200 were white. Since Gould was the only town in the predominantly rural county, many of the district’s students attended school there. Gould maintained two segregated combined elementary and high …

Revenue Stabilization Act

aka: Act 311 of 1945
The Revenue Stabilization Act is an act of the Arkansas General Assembly that categorizes and prioritizes spending for the operation of state government. The act establishes a formula by which to perform an orderly monthly distribution of revenues. The original act eliminated more than 100 special funds and substituted a single general fund from which appropriations are funded. It also provided for paying off all non-highway-related bond indebtedness. The act is revised each legislative session to adapt to economic cycles, revenue forecasts, and program priorities. While Amendments 19 and 20 to the Arkansas Constitution, also known as the “Futrell Amendments,” sharply curtailed the ability of state government to become indebted, the problems of inflexibility and inefficiency in state finances remained …

Right to Work Law

aka: Amendment 34
In November 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first two states to enact what are commonly known as “Right to Work” measures. These laws prohibit employers and employee-chosen unions from agreeing to contracts that require employees to join the union as a condition of employment. Thus, rather than simply granting an individual the right to work, such laws regulate the collective bargaining process to the detriment of unions. The effort to enact Right to Work laws originated on Labor Day in 1941, when Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles called for the passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting contracts that required employees to become union members. Soon thereafter, Vance Muse, founder of the Christian American Association, …

Rison et al. v. Farr

The Arkansas Supreme Court decision in Rison et al. v. Farr overturned the “Iron-Clad” oath that had been passed by the 1864 session of the Union legislature in order to prevent ex-Confederates from voting. Since the case precipitated Radical Reconstruction, probably the most controversial period in Arkansas history, Rison et al. v. Farr stands as one of the most important decisions ever made at the state Supreme Court level. In 1864, Unionists, now in control of Little Rock (Pulaski County), wrote a new constitution for Arkansas. Section 2 of Article 4 provided that “every free white male citizen of the United States” aged twenty-one or over and a resident for six months “shall be deemed a qualified elector.” However, the …

Securities Legislation

“Securities” are investment interests that include bonds, corporate stock, promissory notes taken in exchange for investment of capital, and less standardized interests such as ownership interests in partnerships and limited liability companies. Both federal and state laws regulate the purchase and sale of securities as well as the professionals and businesses that engage in commerce in securities. Both sets of laws apply independently, and the requirements of each must be satisfied. Individual states enacted laws regulating securities and the securities industry starting in the early twentieth century. These state laws are commonly referred to as “blue-sky laws,” because they were designed to protect gullible investors against scam artists who took money in exchange for interests no more substantial than shares …

Separate Coach Law of 1891

The Separate Coach Law of 1891 (Act 17) was a Jim Crow law requiring separate coaches on railway trains for white and black passengers. The law arose out of the political upheavals of the era, in which the Democratic Party sought to stave off challenges to their dominance by distracting voters with racist concerns, and it further relegated African Americans to the margins of social and economic life. By the late 1880s, large numbers of angry white farmers threatened to leave the Democratic Party and join new agrarian parties, such as the Union Labor and Populist organizations. Democratic chieftains and established elites tried to allay defections and distract attention from economic and class issues that were beginning to divide the …

Skipper v. Union Central Life Insurance Company

aka: William Franklin Skipper (Murder of)
aka: Monticello Lynching of 1898
  The death of William Franklin Skipper near Baxter (Drew County) in 1896 sparked a series of trials the Arkansas Gazette described as “perhaps the strangest case in the criminal annals of Arkansas.” The only certainty in the case seems to be that Skipper, a merchant and sawmill owner and a partner in the firm of Skipper and Lephiew (sometimes spelled Lephlew), died of a knife wound to the neck beside Bayou Bartholomew sometime on May 13, 1896. During the two criminal trials, much of the argument centered on whether he committed suicide or was murdered by a group of African-American men who worked at his mill. The criminal case dragged on for more than two years. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned …

Slave Codes

Slave codes were the legal codification of rules regulating slavery. These official parameters for slavery were enacted in every colony or state that condoned the institution. Even before Arkansas was a recognized territory, slave codes existed in the region. Adopted by the French in 1724, the Code Noir, or Black Code, set the legal structure of slavery in Louisiana during the French and Spanish periods. The Code Noir was a comprehensive and detailed policy that set forth guidelines for almost every facet of slavery. The initial laws were partly designed to set limits upon slave owners and convey certain responsibilities to the masters regarding their slaves, including setting minimal standards for food, clothing and shelter, long-term care of sick or …

State of Arkansas v. Artoria Smith

aka: Arkansas v. Smith (2015)
State of Arkansas v. Artoria Smith is a decision of the Pulaski County Circuit Court written by Judge Herbert T. Wright Jr. and filed on January 20, 2015. The decision declared unconstitutional Arkansas’s failure-to-vacate statute—a statute that criminalizes failure to pay rent while remaining on the premises (an act that no other state criminalizes). Three other circuit courts in Arkansas followed suit in declaring the statute unconstitutional. The parties in Arkansas v. Smith stipulated to several facts. Smith and her landlord, Primo Novero, had a lease agreement in 2014. On July 9, 2014, Novero gave Smith ten days’ notice under Arkansas’s failure-to-vacate statute, claiming she had breached the lease. Under the statute, a tenant who remains on the premises more …

State v. Buzzard

State v. Buzzard (1842) was a case in the first half of the nineteenth century involving the right of an individual to carry a concealed weapon. The case came two decades after an 1822 Kentucky case that struck down a state law that restricted concealed weapons—although the weapon at issue there was a sword concealed in a cane. Ultimately, given the facts in Buzzard, coupled with the language of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the case has come to be recognized as one of the earliest examinations of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The case was heard by the original three members of the Arkansas Supreme Court—Chief Justice Daniel Ringo and Associate Justices Townsend Dickinson and …

Streetcar Segregation Act of 1903

The Streetcar Segregation Act, adopted by the Arkansas legislature in 1903, assigned African-American and white passengers to “separate but equal” sections of streetcars. The act led to boycotts of streetcar service in three Arkansas cities. The Streetcar Segregation Act (Act 104), introduced by Representative Reid Gantt of Hot Springs (Garland County) and modeled after legislation in Virginia and Georgia, was a more moderate version of earlier segregationist legislation. The act did not require separate coaches for black and white passengers but rather required segregated portions of streetcar coaches with separate but equal services. On March 10, 1903, black leaders assembled at the First Baptist Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and demanded the halt of legislative efforts aimed at segregating …

Swamp Land Act of 1850

The Swamp Land Act of 1850 gave Arkansas the right to identify and sell millions of acres of overflowed and swamp lands in the public domain and to use the proceeds to finance internal improvements, principally levees and drainage ditches. Arkansas eventually acquired more than 8,600,000 acres of land through the Swamp Land Act. This grant of land was of enormous importance to the state at the time, but it had little permanent impact on the economic development of the state. In the 1830s, planters and land developers began to move into Arkansas, attracted by the rich Mississippi Alluvial Plain bottomlands. The alluvial lands, however, were subject to seasonal overflows. In addition, much of the bottomland was swampland, described by …

Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000

After the establishment of the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 between several major U.S. tobacco companies and four state governments (Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and Mississippi), the remaining forty-six states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories not party to the original legal action were allowed to join into benefits conferred by the agreement. The tobacco companies were mandated to pay damages approaching the sum of $10 billion over an indefinite time period to the states joining the agreement, as well as acknowledge publicly that tobacco companies targeted youth in marketing and sales of products. In addition, the companies were subjected to sponsorship, marketing, and sales restrictions on their product. The State of Arkansas, agreeing not to file further litigation …

U.S. Term Limits Inc. v. Thornton

The case U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (514 U.S. 779, 1995) began as a conflict over term limitations placed on those elected to the House of Representatives (three terms in office) and the U.S. Senate (two terms in office) from the state of Arkansas. It ended with the U.S. Supreme Court interpreting the role of the states in the federal structure created by the U.S. Constitution. The Court resolved the dispute by ruling that the qualifications for those elected to the U.S. Congress listed in the U.S. Constitution are exclusive. Thus, states may not impose additional qualifications upon candidates for the U.S. Congress either directly, or, as in the case of Arkansas, indirectly. Arkansas imposed term limitations through Amendment …

United States v. Burch

The court case of United States v. Burch centered upon Chris Burch’s opposition to Bill Barnes’s expansion of his private resort community, Mountain Harbor Resort, farther into the Ouachita National Forest in western Arkansas. Chris Burch had lived around the forest since 1977 and enjoyed its natural beauty. Bill Barnes’s father had leased lands from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1955, and Barnes was continuing his father’s work: to develop the land to meet the public’s needs as was dictated by the lease. Burch’s family, who owned and operated a small motel and general store, was friendly with—and even referred customers to—Barnes, who frequently returned the favor. Burch, however, was troubled when Barnes requested a new lease over …

United States v. Miller et al.

United States v. Miller et al. originated in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division when a federal grand jury indicted two men for transporting a sawed-off shotgun from Oklahoma to Arkansas in violation of a federal firearm statute. The case eventually became the single instance in which the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly tackled the Second Amendment in the twentieth century, and it remains controversial to this day. The National Firearms Act (NFA), Public Law 73-474, effective July 26, 1934, was in reaction to widespread gun violence during the Prohibition era. The NFA required that certain weapons—principally machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and rifles, and silencers—be registered with the federal government and be heavily taxed. On April …

United States v. Waddell et al.

United States v. Waddell et al. is a U.S. Supreme Court case that arose from an 1883 incident of nightriding (sometimes called whitecapping) in Van Buren County, in which a group of armed white men attempted to drive off a black homesteader. The case centered upon the question of whether or not an individual, having settled upon a piece of property for purposes of obtaining a federal homestead, enjoyed the protection of the federal government in attempting to exercise his rights in the face of conspiracies to intimidate. On December 13, 1882, Burrell Lindsay, an African American, made a homestead entry for a tract of land in Bradley Township in southeastern Van Buren County. On the night of January 10, …

Weston v. Arkansas

aka: Arkansas v. Weston
Joseph Harry Weston v. State of Arkansas dealt with two criminal cases that reached the Arkansas Supreme Court in the 1970s, the second of which led the court to declare the state’s old criminal-libel law unconstitutional. Joseph Harry Weston was the owner and editor of a tiny tabloid newspaper in Cave City (Sharp County) called the Sharp Citizen, which he printed off and on from 1972 until 1978. The paper, which was composed on typewritten stationery with hand-drawn headlines, reveled in strongly opinionated articles that alleged corruption and other scandalous behavior by public officials, businessmen, and common citizens, including Weston’s rural neighbors. The editor’s crusades got national attention but put him into almost perpetual conflict with law-enforcement officials, prosecutors, and …

Wilkerson v. State

The 1947 landmark case of Wilkerson v. the State of Arkansas, in which two African-American men were prosecuted after a deadly highway shooting incident, ended the exclusion of African Americans from Jefferson County juries, marking the first time black jurors had served in the state since Reconstruction. The case also received extensive media coverage because the defense attorneys—William Harold Flowers, who was a leading figure in the civil rights movement in Arkansas in the 1940s, and Zephaniah Alexander Looby, a civil rights leader and attorney from Tennessee—directly attacked unfair and discriminatory Jim Crow laws and practices in open court. On February 9, 1947, off-duty Jefferson County special deputy sheriff George Cletus Bryant, his brother Archie Bryant, and C. W. Winston …

Wood v. Strickland

Wood v. Strickland is the title of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that grew out of a local dispute over a teenage prank perpetrated by three high school students of the Mena Special School District. This case has attained an importance far beyond its origins, helping to define the constitutional rights of public school students and the parameters under which public officials may be sued for monetary damages in federal court. On February 18, 1972, three students—Virginia Crain, Peggy Strickland, and Jo Wall—at Mena (Polk County) confessed to spiking the punch at an extracurricular function with twenty-four ounces of a flavored malt liquor beverage. Principal Duddy Waller suspended the three students for a week. The same day, meeting in a …

Wright v. Arkansas

Wright v. Arkansas was a case involving same-sex marriage in Arkansas. Beginning with a May 2014 decision by a state district court judge, which overturned Arkansas’s ban on gay marriage, the case was stalled in the courts for the next fourteen months. In response to the original decision, one that came amidst the turmoil that surrounded the issue of gay marriage nationwide, the state attorney general secured a temporary stay of the ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court. Subsequently, additional efforts were undertaken to get a full review by the state’s highest court and then, alternatively, in a special court. A change in the occupants of the offices of both governor and state attorney general contributed to delays, however, and …

Wright v. Wright

Wright v. Wright was a 1970 case heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court that addressed the basic question of whether a person who murders his or her parent can then inherit from the estate of the victim. The case of Wright v. Wright had its roots in the September 1953 rifle slaying of Junius Everett Wright and his wife, Macle Cullum Wright, by their son Leslie A. Wright. Accused of a double murder, Wright was convicted for killing his mother and received a life sentence for that crime. Prosecutors opted not to try the seventeen-year-old former high school basketball player for the murder of his father. He was subsequently paroled in 1964, and upon release from prison, he married Lynda …

Yancey v. Faubus

Yancey v. Faubus 238 F. Supp. 290 (1965) was a legal case involving legislative reapportionment in Arkansas in the aftermath of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that not only established the principle of “one person, one vote,” but also determined that, by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, that principle was applicable to the apportionment for representation in the state legislatures as well. The challenge to the apportionment process in Arkansas originated in a suit filed by John Yancey on July 15, 1964, exactly one month after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Reynolds v. Sims 377 U.S. 533 (1964). Yancey, a registered voter in Pulaski County, filed suit against Governor Orval Faubus, Secretary of State Kelly …