Karen Steward

Host, Courts and Community

Karen Tricot Steward hosts Courts and Community, a one-minute interstitial program on KUAR. She is Public Education Coordinator for the Arkansas Supreme Court. Her position is responsible for planning and implementing statewide public education programs to raise awareness and understanding of the role of the judiciary. She organizes outreach events, develops educational materials and exhibits, facilitates group tours of the Justice Building in Little Rock, and makes presentations about the court system.

Karen was a reporter for KUAR once and remembers being much more confident about her knowledge of the legislative and executive branches of government than the judicial branch. She hopes the public will feel more informed about and connected to the judiciary as a result of its outreach efforts.

Contact Karen at karen.steward@arcourts.gov or 501-410-1935.

Ways to Connect

Throughout its history, Arkansas has been governed by five constitutions.

The state's current constitution was adopted in 1874. It was approved by the people by a three-to-one majority in a special election. Several attempts have been made to draft a new constitution, but have failed.

In our country, we have both federal courts and state courts. But what's the difference?

The U.S. Constitution creates a system of government in which power is shared between federal and state government, so the two have their own separate court systems. Many laws that affect our daily lives are passed by state governments, so state courts handle these types of cases, like traffic violations, broken contracts, robberies or murders, and family disagreements.

James Monroe McHaney was an Arkansas lawyer who was asked in 1946 to serve as lead prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials in Germany. He was the son of former Arkansas Supreme Court justice Edgar McHaney. At age 28, James McHaney accepted the assignment and played a key role in the prosecution of doctors who participated in the Holocaust during World War II.

There are three levels of courts in Arkansas’s court system: district courts, circuit courts and appellate courts.

District courts handle traffic violations, misdemeanor offenses, violations of state law and local ordinances, and civil matters involving personal property or contracts. The next level, circuit courts, are the trial courts. This includes jury trials with a 12-member jury, or bench trial with one judge presiding.

Several studies over the decades have concluded that lawyers are more prone to alcoholism and depression than people in other professions. A 2016 study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation estimates almost two in five lawyers are problem drinkers, and that more than one in four struggle with depression.

The problem seems to also affect law students. According to a study by the Dave Nee Foundation, law students are among the most dissatisfied and depressed of any graduate student population.

Judge Andree Layton Roaf was the first African-American woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

She was appointed to serve out the term of a retiring justice from 1996 until 1997. In 1997 Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed her to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, the state's second-highest court, where she served until 2006.

The word “Justice” is etched on the front of the Arkansas Supreme Court building with a V as the second letter instead of a U. This is because part of the basis for our system of law derives from Roman law and the Latin alphabet at one point didn’t have a U.

Up until the 17th Century, the Romans didn’t have a need for using separate letters for V, U or W. They used them interchangeably and they were pronounced in the same way. So, the use of V for U is a tribute to the neoclassical style.

The Arkansas Supreme Court began live-streaming its oral arguments in 2010 with the goal of giving citizens better access to the courts and the judicial process. When the Supreme Court is hearing a case, anyone with an internet connection can watch the proceedings live.

The public can also come to the Justice Building and watch any oral argument in-person in the Supreme Court courtroom.

As our nation becomes more and more diverse, the need for court interpreters continues to grow. Interpreting for a witness, defendant, victim, or lawyer during a court proceeding can ensure all people receive fair and equal access to justice.

Professional court interpreters are individuals who possess an educated, native-like mastery of both English and another language. In Arkansas, Spanish and Marshallese are the two most common languages requested for interpretation.