About the Commission

The Claims Commission's primary function is the hearing and adjudication of claims against the state of Arkansas, its agencies, and its institutions.

It serves as a fact-finding body for the General Assembly. The Commission hears and determines claims for property damage, personal injury, refunds, and breach of contract. Then, when necessary, the Commission makes its recommendation to the General Assembly on awarding monetary damages.

History of the Claims Commission

To properly consider the Commission's duties, close examination of its history must be associated with the doctrine of sovereign immunity as prescribed in the Arkansas Constitution.

The doctrine of sovereign immunity originated in England and has since been ingrained in the common law of every state. Conceived and adopted in a time when it was considered a necessary financial protection for governments, the doctrine exists in each state unless constitutionally, legislatively or judicially abrogated.

The Arkansas Constitution, adopted in 1874, has constitutional provisions relating to sovereign immunity. The permissive provisions of the Constitution leave the decision of whether to abrogate the doctrine and to what extent, to the discretion of the General Assembly. Arkansas' Constitution in Article 5, Section 20 states: "The State of Arkansas shall never be made a defendant in any of her courts." This provision has prohibited suit against the state.

The Arkansas General Assembly, while maintaining the State's sovereign immunity, established the Claims Commission to mitigate the impact of the rigid rule of "governmental immunity" while adhering to another constitutional direction that the "General Assembly shall from time to time provide for the payment of all just and legal debts of the State."

By creating the Claims Commission a method was found by which damaged or injured parties could be compensated without the State being made a defendant in any of its courts.

Prior to the establishment of the Claims Commission, the General Assembly had passed "Special Acts" for the benefit of parties it deemed deserving.

As these private bills increased in number, the General Assembly resorted to "Omnibus Claims Bills" that incorporated all claims against the State approved by the General Assembly.

Ultimately, the General Assembly found it was unable to devote adequate time to the investigation of each claim, and, therefore, the first Claims Commission consisting of the State Auditor, Attorney General and State Comptroller was created to review claims.

The General Assembly thereafter biannually established a special Claims Commission and appropriated money to pay the claims approved by that Commission. This special Claims Commission was replaced by the Board of Fiscal Control in 1945 with the passage of Act 53 of 1945 and, subsequently, by Act 462 of 1949.

In response to a demand for a body removed from political influence that could efficiently determine claims filed against the state, the General Assembly, in Act 276 of 1955, created the Arkansas State Claims Commission as it is known today. Act 861 of 1985 increased the size of the Claims Commission from three to five members, but did not otherwise affect Act 276 of 1955.

Statutory Authority

These are the statutes that cover the authority and operation of the Claims Commission. For the text of these statutes see Arkansas Code Annotated (A.C.A.) on our Links Page.

Title 19, Chapter 10 - Claims Against the State

Claims Commission creation and operation
A.C.A.§ 19-10-201/305

Other code sections related to the Claims Commission:
A.C.A.§ 19-10-101/104 (Claims against the State)
A.C.A.§ 21-5-701/707 (Death & disability benefit eligibility)
A.C.A.§ 6-82-501/506 (Scholarship benefit eligibility)

Who We Are
Commission Members:

Henry Kinslow- Co-Chair
Mica Strother- Co-Chair
Bill Lancaster
Sylvester Smith
Dr. Dexter Booth

Commission Staff:

Kathryn Irby- Director
Misty Scott- Administrative Specialist, II
SaBreana Hyche- Administrative Analyst