Department of Justice realigns U.S. Attorney Eastern District in Arkansas
LITTLE ROCK — Thanks to legislation signed last week, a plan to realign the federal court divisions in the Eastern District of Arkansas is becoming a reality.
The 41-county district has historically consisted of five divisions based in Little Rock, Batesville, Helena- West Helena, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff. Each division operated for decades out of its own courthouse space, with Eastern District judges, all anchored in Little Rock, taking turns holding court in the four outlying areas.
But as part of a national effort to eliminate seldom- used court spaces and reduce the associated costs of rent and overhead for federal courts, divisional offices in Pine Bluff and Batesville closed in 2017, when the courts’ leases on spaces used in those cities weren’t renewed. The consolidation creates three new divisions: the Delta Division, based in Helena-West Helena; the Northern Division, based in Jonesboro; and the Central Division based in Little Rock.
The new official boundaries expand the Central Division, formerly known as the Western Division, to include six counties formerly in the Pine Bluff Division and two counties formerly in the Batesville Division.
The Northern Division adds five counties that were part of the Batesville Division and two counties that were in the Helena, or Eastern Division. The Helena, now Delta, Division takes over three counties previously in the Pine Bluff Division, adds Crittenden County that was formerly in the Jonesboro or Northern division, and loses two counties to the Jonesboro Division. U.S. District Clerk James McCormack said a jury wheel reflecting the new configuration of divisions will be implemented in December 2020, when the current arrangement expires. The wheel contains the names of prospective jurors from each division.
A simultaneous change being implemented by the U.S. district clerk’s office on Jan.
1 concerning criminal cases is likely to have the biggest impact on defendants, attorneys, witnesses and criminal transport operations.
Attorneys in Little Rock, including federal prosecutors and federal public defenders, are expected to be crisscrossing the highways in the eastern part of the district in record numbers to try cases in the Jonesboro and Helena- West Helena courtrooms as well as in the familiar Little Rock courtrooms.
“We’ll do as we’re instructed, and be where we need to be,” Assistant U.S.
Attorney Allison Bragg, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland, said Tuesday. She didn’t discuss any specifics, including whether more prosecutors will have to be added for the sake of efficiency, but said, “We’ll make adjustments as things develop. It’s a model that’s used by most districts now,” he said, which includes at least one district in each state, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Troubled Northeast Arkansas nursing home to close
HORSESHOE BEND — A Northeast Arkansas nursing home is searching for a place to put its residents after its corporate office announced Tuesday it was shutting the doors.
Georgia-based Marsh Pointe Management told staff members at South Bend Nursing it would no longer operate or provide supplies to the facility located in Horseshoe Bend.
Amy Smith, director of nursing, told the paper that administrators have activated an emergency plan to relocate 21 people who live there before supplies run out. “This is devastating to not only our staff, our town, but also our residents,” Smith is quoted as saying. She added that residents living in the home were “absolutely crushed” by the news.
According to the article, Marsh Pointe moved to take control of the 78-bed home, known as Diamond Cove, in October after a previous operator failed to pay its vendors.
However, the state’s Office of Long Term Care denied their application to officially run the property.
The Horseshoe Bend facility, according to the paper, is among several flagged by regulators for “quality- of-care problems in recent years. It has been fined more than $19,000 for violations since 2017.”