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.
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
- Levying county taxes
- Appropriating public funds for county expenses
- Setting reserves
- Setting the number and compensation of county employees and county officers
- Officiating civil marriage ceremonies
The Quorum Court may consider ordinances and resolutions related to:
- Maintenance and improvement of County Roads and Bridges
- County buildings, vehicles, and other property
- The County Jail/Detention Center
- The budgets of the Courts and Criminal Justice System
- Land Use issues, including zoning and permits
- Funding for various departments and services, including:
- Emergency Management
- Animal Shelter
There is a full list of departments and services on the Washington County website.
The full Quorum Court is required to meet in public monthly. There are also typically up to 4 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
- Jail/Law Enforcement/Courts
Evelyn Rios Stafford currently serves on the Personnel and County Services committees. The County Judge decides committee assignments. Currently, each committee has seven members.
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.
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.