From the Desk of JD Gingerich:
On March 20, 1965, Governor Orval Faubus signed Act 496 of 1965, creating the Arkansas Judicial Department. Arkansas’s creation of a state office for court administration came during a time of significant court reform efforts across the United States. During the early 1960s similar offices were created by state legislatures in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina.
The initial appropriation for the first year’s operation of the agency totaled $34,294. This sum included
the cost of the agency’s two employees, an Executive Secretary and a Stenographer. Arkansas’s statute was consistent with the reform efforts in other states in that it charged the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with the responsibility of managing the administrative affairs of the state court system and created a staff to assist
the Chief Justice in those efforts. The reform movement suggested that, in order to foster judicial independence, state judicial systems should assume more responsibility for the effective management of the judicial branch and take steps to increase the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of state
court judges, employees, and operations. The primary task initially given to the Arkansas Judicial Department was the collection of court statistics and the development of court management processes to assist state court judges with the timely and effective management of their dockets.
Over the years the profession of judicial administration has grown and court administrative offices in Arkansas and other states have been assigned more extensive responsibility. In Arkansas, as a result of subsequent legislation and rules of the Supreme Court, the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts (so re-named in 1989) has grown to include fiscal and personnel management, judicial branch education, sign and foreign language interpretation, legal research, public information and education, legislative outreach, juvenile programs, court security, alternative dispute resolution, jury management and public policy research.
Throughout this change, the AOC has remained true to its original purpose, enacted fifty years
ago, of assisting the Chief Justice with the “efficient operations” of the courts, the “efficient dispatch of litigation” and the “proper conduct of business.” The formal mission statement of the AOC provides that “our mission is to support the Arkansas judiciary and employees of the judicial brand and to assist attorneys and members of the public who rely upon an independent court system that is efficient, accessible and fair to all.”
We have assembled a talented and dedicated group of court professionals who are leaders in their areas of expertise and who understand the direct connections between their daily activities and the provision of justice to our citizens. I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of the last fifty years and look forward to the future as we “Support Courts and Ensure Justice.”