FROM THE NEWTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 51CV-16-7]
HONORABLE GORDON WEBB, JUDGE
Law Firm, by: Jeffrey G. Malm, for appellants.
Law Firm, by; Steven B. Davis, for appellees.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, JUDGE.
and Darlene McGraw appeal a Newton County Circuit Court order
granting Richard Crowden, Jr., and Jane Crowden a road across
their property. We reverse the circuit court's order
without reaching the merits of the McGraws' claims,
because the circuit court lacked the jurisdiction to enter
underlying facts are not in dispute. The Crowdens own certain
real property in Newton County, Arkansas. The Crowden
property is bounded on three sides by the Ozark National
Forest. The remaining side abuts property owned by the
McGraws. Claiming their property was landlocked, the Crowdens
initially filed suit in the Newton County Circuit Court
seeking a prescriptive easement for an access road across the
McGraw property. The circuit court denied this claim, and the
Crowdens did not appeal that decision. Instead, the Crowdens
filed an action for a private road. Pursuant to Arkansas Code
Annotated sections 27-66-401 et seq.,  the Crowdens
filed their claim for a private road in the county court of
Newton County. The McGraws were served and filed their
answer. The county court took no action whatsoever on the
claim because the parties agreed to have the matter heard by
the Newton County Circuit Court. The Crowdens filed a notice
of appeal to the Newton County Circuit Court and requested
that the matter be assigned to Judge Gordon Webb.
August 16, 2017, the Newton County Circuit Court entered a
judgment in favor of the Crowdens. The McGraws appeal the
circuit court's order, claiming four separate errors.
cannot reach the merits of the McGraws' claims because
the circuit court was without jurisdiction to entertain the
petition. Article 7, section 28 of the Arkansas Constitution
taken together with Arkansas Code Annotated sections
27-66-401 to -404 gives the county court the power of eminent
domain to allow access to landlocked tracts. Yates v.
Sturgis, 311 Ark. 618, 621, 846 S.W.2d 633, 634 (1993).
Pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 27-66-401(a)(1),
a landlocked property owner must seek relief in the county
court. If the county court determines that the circuit court
has jurisdiction over the matter, the county court may stay
the proceedings or dismiss the case without prejudice to be
refiled within one year of dismissal. Ark. Code Ann. §
27-66-402(a)(2). Here, the Crowdens sought relief in the
county court pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 27-
66-401(a)(1). The county court, however, never ruled on their
claim, nor did it issue a stay or dismiss the proceedings
pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 27-66-402(a)(2).
Instead, the parties attempted to invoke the circuit
court's appellate jurisdiction by filing a notice of
appeal in the Newton County Circuit Court.
Code Annotated section 27-66-403(b)(1) states that
"[e]ither party may appeal to the circuit court from the
final order or judgment of the county court within thirty
(30) days from the entry of the order and not
thereafter." Upon proper appeal, the circuit court
conducts a de novo review of the county court's action.
Ark. Code Ann. § 27-66-403(b)(2). The circuit
court's jurisdiction, however, is appellate, not
original. Here, the county court never entered a final order
or judgment. Because no action was ever taken by the county
court, there was no final order or judgment from which an
appeal could have been taken.  Thus, the circuit court's
assumption of appellate jurisdiction in this matter was
well settled that the parties to an action may not confer
subject-matter jurisdiction on a court. City of Little
Rock v. Circuit Court of Pulaski Cty., 2017 Ark. 219,
521 S.W.3d 113; Vanderpool v. Fid. & Cas. Ins.
Co., 327 Ark. 407, 939 S.W.2d 280 (1997). A court that
acts without subject-matter jurisdiction or in excess of its
jurisdiction produces a result that is void and cannot be
enforced. Jonesboro Healthcare Ctr., LLC v. Eaton-Moery
Envtl. Servs., Inc., 2011 Ark. 501, 385 S.W.3d 797.
Moreover, when a circuit court lacks jurisdiction, we do not
acquire jurisdiction on appeal. City of N. Little Rock v.
Pfeifer, 2017 Ark. 113, at 4, 515 S.W.3d 593, 596;
Barrows v. City of Fort Smith, 2010 Ark. 73, 360 S.W.3d
117; Vanderpool, supra.
on our determination that the circuit court lacked
jurisdiction to decide the matter, the underlying judgment of
the circuit court is void. Accordingly, we vacate the order
of the circuit court, dismiss the appeal, and remand to the
county court for further proceedings.
dismissed; order vacated; and remanded to county court for
Klappenbach and ...