Cockrell v. Dobbs

CourtSupreme Court of Arkansas
Citation238 Ark. 348,381 S.W.2d 756
Docket NumberNo. 5-3418,5-3418
PartiesBruce COCKRELL, Petitioner, v. P. E. DOBBS, Judge, Respondent.
Decision Date14 September 1964

Jack Holt, Sr., Little Rock, for appellant.

David Whittington, Pros. Atty., Hot Springs, for appellee.


This is a petition by Bruce Cockrell for a writ of mandamus to compel the reaspondent, as the presiding judge of the Garland circuit court, to grant a hearing upon Cockrell's motion for a change of venue. The petitioner, charged with murder, asked for a change of venue, asserting that he could not obtain a fair trial in Garland county. In refusing to conduct a hearing upon the motion Judge Dobbs explained that he had concluded that he could not grant any relief even if the motion had merit.

This was Judge Dobbs's reasoning: The Bill of Rights provides that the venue may be changed to another county within the same judicial district. Ark.Const., Art. 2, § 10. This provision has been construed to prohibit a change of venue to a county in a different judicial district. State v. Flynn, 31 Ark. 35. Act 49 of 1963, by transferring Montgomery county to another judicial district left Garland county as the only county in the Eighteenth Judicial District. Hence Judge Dobbs concluded that he was powerless to grant a change of venue, for there is now no other county within the district to which the case might be removed.

In seeking a writ of mandamus the petitioner contends that the Bill of Rights by implication prohibits the legislature from reducing any judicial district to a single county, so that Act 49 is unconstitutional. During our summer recess four members of the court heard the petition and unanimously granted the writ. This opinion for the full court explains why the writ was issued.

We are unwilling to say that Act 49 is invalid. The constitution (Art. 7, § 13, and Art. 18) empowered the General Assembly to change the judicial districts from time to time. There is no express requirement that a district contain more than one county. Shifts in population might readily qualify a single county to become a complete judicial district. There is no sound basis for reading into the constitution the implied limitation upon the legislative power now urged by the petitioner--a restriction that in practice might prove to be demonstrably unwise. We uphold Act 49.

We are nevertheless of the opinion that the court below construed the Bill of Rights much too narrowly, permitting its strict letter to defeat its manifest purpose. Changes of venue were recognized at common law. Without a doubt Section 10 of Article 2, authorizing a transfer to another county within the district, was meant...

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11 cases
  • Perry v. State, CR82-19
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • 15 Noviembre 1982
    ...of venue to any county adjacent to Crawford County, either inside or outside the Twelfth Judicial District. Cockrell v. Dobbs, Judge, 238 Ark. 348, 381 S.W.2d 756 (1964). However, there was no request by the appellant for a change to any specific county other than Sebastian. In any event, t......
  • Pruett v. Norris, Civil No. PB-C-88-195.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas
    • 24 Marzo 1997
    ...transfer of a proceeding, it is, indeed, subordinate to the vested right of an accused to an impartial jury.4 In Cockrell v. Dobbs, 238 Ark. 348, 381 S.W.2d 756 (1964), the Arkansas Supreme Court further emphasized the State's subordinate interest in determining where a criminal proceeding ......
  • Perry v. Lockhart, s. 86-2262
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 16 Junio 1989
    ...transfer as early as 1964, and certainly by 1978. Simmons v. Lockhart, 814 F.2d 504, 506-07 (8th Cir.1987) (citing Cockrell v. Dobbs, 238 Ark. 348, 381 S.W.2d 756 (1964) and Swindler v. State, 264 Ark. 107, 569 S.W.2d 120 (1978)), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 108 S.Ct. 1489, 99 L.Ed.2d 717 ......
  • Simmons v. Lockhart, 86-1177
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 18 Marzo 1987 interpret the limiting clause of the section in favor of the right of the accused to trial by an unbiased jury. In Cockrell v. Dobbs, 238 Ark. 348, 381 S.W.2d 756 (1964), the Court stated The important declaration in this section of the constitution is its guaranty of a trial by an impar......
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