Laws and Court Cases

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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 …