What Is a JP?

In Arkansas, Justices of the Peace (JPs) are the legislative branch of county government. They serve on what's called the "Quorum Court", which is similar to a city council but at the county level. They control all spending and revenue for the county and pass ordinances and resolutions.

Washington County is divided into 15 districts of roughly equal population. Each district elects its own JP. Evelyn Rios Stafford represents District 12, which includes Downtown and Southeast Fayetteville. Elections are in even-numbered years, and JPs serve two-year terms.

Evelyn Rios Stafford sworn in by Judge Zimmerman, January 2021

Duties and Powers

Some of the most important duties and powers of the Quorum Court include:

  • Setting an annual budget for the entire county government
  • Deciding on land use issues in the unincorporated county, including zoning and permits
  • Appropriating public funds for county expenses
  • Setting the pay rates of county employees and elected officials and deciding on the size of the county workforce
  • Setting county taxes, including millage rates
  • Setting aside financial reserves
  • Officiating marriage ceremonies

The Quorum Court may consider ordinances and resolutions related to:

  • Maintenance and improvement of County Roads and Bridges
  • The County Jail/Detention Center
  • County buildings, vehicles, and other property
  • Funding for various departments and services, including:
    • Sheriff's Department
    • Courts and Criminal Justice System
    • Emergency Management
    • County Library System
    • Animal Shelter
    • Coroner
    • Assessor
    • Collector
    • County Clerk
    • Elections

There is a full list of departments and services on the Washington County website.

Meetings

The full Quorum Court is required to meet in public monthly. There are also typically 2-3 committee meetings per month. ALL meetings are open to the public, and public comment is allowed at every meeting. Meetings are in the Quorum Courtroom on the first floor of the Washington County Courthouse, 280 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville. The public is encouraged to attend, speak up, and get involved! Meetings are also live-streamed and archived on the County’s YouTube Channel, although this is viewing-only.

Current committees are:

  • Budget & Finance
  • County Services

For the 2023-2024 term, all committees are "committees of the whole", meaning all 15 JPs serve on each committee. The County Judge decides committee assignments.

The County Judge, who heads the executive branch, chairs the full Quorum Court meeting. The Judge has no vote but can veto the Quorum Court’s decisions. The Quorum Court can overturn the Judge’s veto with a ⅗ vote (60%) of the entire membership or a vote of 9 of 15 JPs.

Committee meetings are led by a committee chair, a JP who is elected at the start of each calendar year by a majority of the committee members.

Washington County has a full calendar of public meetings on its website.

State Laws

Justices are paid $200 per meeting attended, plus mileage. They do not receive a general salary. The pay scale is set by the Arkansas General Assembly.

Each of the 75 counties in Arkansas is governed by a Quorum Court. They are described in Article 7 of the Arkansas Consitution. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas also has information about the history of Quorum Courts in Arkansas.

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