By ROBIN JEAN DAVIS
CHARLESTON -- Earlier this year, the Supreme Court celebrated the 10-year anniversary of our Web site, www.state.wv.us/wvsca.
The site was launched in March 1997 with six links on the homepage. The current Web site has 253,000 individual pages.
Over the past 10 years, the site has been featured in many different articles. In 1999, Study Web named it the best educational Web site. In 2001 it was featured as Web site of the month by S.W.I.G. (Statewide Internet Group). In 2003 it was listed as one of the top three court Web sites in the Legal Intelligencer.
In September 2001, ours was one of the first appellate courts to provide a live Webcast of court proceedings, which is accomplished through a link on our Web site. Internet streaming technology allows attorneys, judges, and members of the public outside of Charleston to follow court proceedings and avoid the user limitations and charges associated with the call-in line. The Webcast is streamed live directly from the courtroom. In addition, proceedings from outside of Charleston are also covered. The Webcast is made available to the general public for informational purposes only and does not constitute an official record of court proceedings.
All of the Court's Argument and Motion Dockets are Webcast. Check the court calendar, which can be found through a link on the Supreme Court section of the Web site, for more information regarding argument dates. Because the broadcast is live, the schedule for the Webcast follows the Court's schedule while on the bench. On argument days, the proceedings commence at 10 a.m., with Admissions and the Motion Docket, if any, being taken up first.
The Court recesses at approximately 12:30 p.m., then re-convenes at 2 p.m. and continues until all arguments have been completed. Argument times for each case vary. The Clerk calls each case to be presented. The Webcast continues as long as the Court is on the bench.
In 2004 the Clerk's Office started to put online briefs of cases that are set for the argument docket. By clicking on the Calendar and Docket section of the homepage, a user can view which cases are being argued. All briefs for cases being argued are available by clicking on the case and downloading the briefs.
Opinions issued by the Court are posted on the Web site on the day of release. Opinions are posted at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Anyone can sign up to be on the Opinion Summary Mailing List.
The e-mail bulletin is prepared throughout the term by the Clerk's Office. Subscribers to the free service receive summaries of recently filed opinions, organized by topic for easy reference, along with links to the full texts of opinions.
The homepage is a top-visited section of the Web site, followed closely by sections related to Supreme Court opinions and the Court calendar and conference docket. The homepage provides the gateway to a variety of information valuable to the public and the legal community.
The Press Page is a good point of reference to find out what is going on in the Court system. On the Press Page a user can find copies of all press releases archived back to 1998. One can also sign up to join a service that will e-mail press releases when they are released. The Chiefs' Column is also part of the Press Page and every column is archived back to the year 2000.
Under the Legal Reference section of the homepage there are links to the Supreme Court Law Library, court rules and forms, model jury instructions, legal self-help information, The West Virginia Judicial Benchbook for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings, and The West Virginia Benchbook for Domestic Violence Proceedings.
The Legal Reference Section also includes a link to a Student Resources section, which includes information about the Supreme Court's Robes to Schools program and Legal Advancement for West Virginia Students (LAWS) program. That section also includes a coloring book about court services for children and other court-related activities for youngsters.
Many of those activities can be downloaded for use if children are being brought into court for any reason. The activities are designed to make the Courthouse and the people in it less intimidating to children.
Other sections of the Web site contain basic information for the public about the organization and function of the West Virginia court system.
With more than forty thousand visitors per month, the Court's Web site clearly is useful. About eight thousand of those are repeat visitors. In an average month, more than a quarter million pages are viewed by all visitors.
The Supreme Court's Internet Committee meets once a month to discuss the needs of the Web site and related issues. The Committee is working on revising the current Web site and hopes to launch a redesigned site in 2008. The Court recognizes the importance of a Web site in providing access to the judicial system, and supports the ongoing work to improve the site.
I strongly encourage everyone to stop by and visit our Web site. Any suggestions for improvement should be passed along to Information Services Director Jennifer Bundy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Web Author Angie Smith at email@example.com.
Davis is Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
By ROBIN JEAN DAVIS