Supreme court says "No" to combined courthouses
LITTLE ROCK -- The Arkansas Supreme Court quashed an order by Carroll County Circuit Judge Kent Crow that would have unified the county's two judicial districts.
An opinion dated Oct. 7 said, "The circuit judge proceeded wholly without jurisdiction in issuing his standing order, and his order shows a plain, manifest, clear, and gross abuse of discretion."
The court's ruling overturns "in its entirety the circuit judge's standing order of March 15, 2010, dissolving the Eastern and Western District Courts of Carroll County."
Crow had ruled that Carroll County had only one judicial district, and he ordered the consolidation of all active county records at the courthouse in Berryville.
Eureka Springs attorney Tim Parker filed a lawsuit challenging the ruling, and he was joined in that suit by Circuit Clerk Ramona Wilson.
Wilson said in March she would be unable to comply with Crow's order, which gave her less than three months to consolidate all the records. The courthouse in Berryville barely has enough space for the records and staff of the Eastern District.
After hearing the decision Thursday, Wilson said, "I'm relieved that we'll be able to continue providing services to all the citizens of the county."
Crow's ruling would not have prevented the county from operating a satellite office in Eureka Springs to write marriage licenses, but with all active records to be consolidated in Berryville, residents of the Western District would have had to come to Berryville for any business relating to deeds or court records.
Crow was in court Thursday, and was unavailable for comment.
Parker, who appeared before the ASC for oral arguments Sept. 16, said he was pleased to hear the court's ruling.
He said he had filed suit to protect the rights of clients served by the Eureka Springs courthouse. He also described the courthouse's importance to the entire community.
"I like Eureka Springs, and I didn't want to see us losing our judicial district," he said. "We need to keep our records and court files over here, and keep our courthouse open as a matter of right."
Parker noted the courthouse generates money for Eureka Springs, and he called it "a source of activity" for the city.
"I'm proud of our old courthouse," he concluded.
The Oct. 12 edition of Carroll County News will include more legal details from the ruling.