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Constitutional tampering

An Arkansas legislator introduced SJR6 this week, which is bad news for ordinary Arkansans. Why? It tampers with the Arkansas Constitution. It seeks to change the system of checks and balances of our state government. We ask that you contact your local legislators and ask them to vote against SJR6. Click here to find your legislators’ contact information.

Every civics class in every high school teaches that there are three branches of government: executive (the governor), legislative (the General Assembly), and the judicial (the court system). Traditionally in our country, the courts have the power to pass their own rules regarding how the court system works. These rules include how a judge rules on particular kinds evidence, how to process a case through the court system, how to appeal cases, and how to regulate the conduct of lawyers and judges.

The courts don’t pass laws, they merely enforce the ones passed by the Legislature. Occasionally, the General Assembly passes laws that try to tell the court system how to do its job, and the courts declare those laws unconstitutional. Some newcomers to the Legislature are upset that a group of laws passed in 2003 have been declared unconstitutional because they tried to tell the court system how to do its job. This resolution is the result.

One of the primary purposes of the court system is to make sure the law is applied consistently, year after year. This resolution would make the law much more inconsistent because the rules of the court system would likely change every two years. We have tens of thousands of laws and hundreds of court rules, so it is already hard enough for ordinary citizens to know what the law is. When rules change constantly, courts can’t consistently apply the law, and most folks won’t be aware of harmful changes.

This resolution is not constitutionally conservative, and we oppose it. But don’t take our word for it. The Arkansas Bar Association voted to oppose the resolution, and it is made up of all types of lawyers on all sides of the aisle: judges, prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, and civil plaintiff and defense attorneys. 

Bottom line: this resolution is bad for ordinary Arkansans. We need your help in opposing it. Please contact your legislators today, and ask your friends and families to do the same.