CHARLESTON – Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says an intermediate court of appeals is an "appropriate step" for West Virginia, but one that must be taken with a sound financial foot.
"Governor Tomblin has said, and continues to believe, that an intermediate court is an appropriate step for West Virginia," campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman said Thursday. "It must be done cost-effectively, and he doesn't support just adding a layer of bureaucracy to the judicial system.
"The state did make strides ensuring the Supreme Court will consider all appeals, but businesses do deserve to know their arguments will receive full consideration."
The comments came after West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse issued a release saying Tomblin should clarify his remarks regarding the issue he made during a debate earlier this week with Republican candidate Bill Maloney.
In the Tuesday debate sponsored by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association and the state AARP, Tomblin said, "I think we should have the right to appeal, but once again we need to make sure the costs aren't going to eat us alive, for this extra layer of court."
WV CALA Exeuctive Director Richie Heath said Tomblin "was unequivocal in his support of proposed appeals court legislation" earlier this year. Tomblin urged House of Delegates members to pass that bill, Senate Bill 307.
"West Virginia is in the minority of states that do not have an automatic right of appeal, and I think that should change," Tomblin said at the time.
"The creation of an intermediate appeals court is critical to the future of our state," Heath said. "The bi-partisan legislation passed by the state Senate earlier this year was a fiscally responsible effort to finally guarantee a right of appeal in West Virginia. WV CALA's 30,000 members would like to know if Acting Governor Tomblin still supports that reform measure.
"West Virginia's lack of an automatic right of appeal has directly cost the state hundreds of jobs and more than $25 million in investment. Surely Acting Governor Tomblin realizes that the cost of doing nothing is far greater than the modest annual costs of maintaining an intermediate appeals court."
Stadelman also noted that West Virginia has made "great strides" in creating a hospitable business climate.
"Workers' compensation used to be a significant detriment to doing business in our state, and Earl Ray Tomblin helped fix that problem," Stadelman said. "Rates have dropped nearly 50 percent in the past five years, and the unfunded liability is nearly paid off.
"He also led the way on creating a physicians mutual insurance company that kept our doctors from fleeing the state. We're reducing our corporate net income tax and eliminating the business franchise tax.
"More than anything, companies appreciate stability and knowing the ground rules when they locate or expand, and Earl Ray Tomblin has made sure that's the case in West Virginia.
Maloney supports the creation of the intermediate appellate court and other civil justice reforms.