(CN) – The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to reduce the number of operating divisions in the Eastern District of Arkansas from five to three in a rare realignment of judicial lines, which was spurred by the 2017 closure of the only two federal courthouses in the two axed divisions.
Sponsored by Arkansas Republican Congressman Rick Crawford, the bill consolidates the operating divisions into the Central Division, Delta Division and Northern Division, with the federal courthouses for each located in Little Rock, Helena and Jonesboro, respectively.
Federal judicial divisions require an act of Congress to change, and are very rarely altered. Congress established Arkansas’ two judicial districts in 1851 – the Eastern and Western districts – to serve the state’s population in cases with federal jurisdiction, according to the Federal Judicial Center, a governmental research and education agency.
The Eastern District of Arkansas has not been restructured since 1961, when a division in Pine Bluff was authorized. The court currently includes divisions in Little Rock, Helena, Jonesboro, Batesville and Pine Bluff.
H.R. 1123, the Divisional Realignment for the Eastern District of Arkansas Act of 2019, aligns the three new divisions with the three remaining courthouses in Little Rock, Helena and Jonesboro, according to a statement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler.
The new divisional lines are based on caseload history and travel times to the remaining courthouses, the statement said.
The legislation was supported by the entire Arkansas House delegation, as well as the Judicial Conference, the Judicial Council of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit and Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr.