By JAN VINEYARD

CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia Business and Industry Council strongly supports Senate Bill 589, introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.

This legislation would provide for an intermediate court of appeals in West Virginia and offers businesses and individuals the automatic right to appeal judgments against them.

We applaud Sen. Kessler and his co-sponsors, Richard Browning, Dan Foster, Evan Jenkins, Brooks McCabe, Corey Palumbo and Herb Snyder, for crafting this essential legislation, which will afford West Virginians the same rights others enjoy in the overwhelming majority of states.

This bill would also allow West Virginia businesses and those contemplating locating here with the assurance that, if there are judgments against them, they will be able to seek full due process in our courts.

This would be a significant improvement over the existing system, where there is no right to appeal, and where the state Supreme Court of Appeals has no requirement to hear appeals.

The court has indicated that it will propose rules to allow for a more complete explanation in reviewing cases seeking appeal.

With all due respect to the court, we do not feel this will result in the type of comprehensive review that appellants are seeking in West Virginia.

Senate Bill 589 would provide those seeking an appeal with the confidence that their cases will be given a full and fair hearing. This bill also more accurately reflects the recommendations of the Commission on Judicial Reform, which was empaneled by Gov. Manchin last year to design an automatic right of appeal process for our state.

Headed by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Judicial Commission was comprised of legal experts representing both the defense and trial bars as well as former judges.

The commission worked for several months to come up with its recommendations, many of which were incorporated in this bill.

The bill initially provides for three judges and three law clerks for the new intermediate court. If the volume of cases increases, then the legislation provides latitude to expand the number to six judges and six law clerks.

This legislation will guarantee any litigant the opportunity to have its appeal heard and to receive a written decision on the merits of their appeal in a timely fashion.

The initial budget for setting up the appeals court is approximately $1.5 million.

The West Virginia Business and Industry Council urges its members and the citizens of the state to contact their legislative representatives and express their support for Senate Bill 589.

We applaud the leadership of Sen. Kessler and his co-sponsors in developing this important legislation to create an intermediate court of appeals in our state.

Simply put, our citizens and businesses are entitled to greater access to our judicial system, including the right to appeal judgments against them.

Vineyard is chairwoman of the West Virginia Business and Industry Council, founded in 1982 by business-related trade associations to work together on issues of common interest.

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