CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court's Revised Rules of Appellate Procedure are ready and will go into effect Dec. 1.
"I am a woman of my word," Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis said. "I said we'd have them ready for release and distribution Dec. 1. The rules were promulgated last week, and they are effective Dec. 1."
Davis said she is "extremely excited" that the process is complete.
" We had 42 responses when we sent them out for public comment," she said. "Everybody had good suggestions. We made many, many of those changes, and we did some tweaking based upon the comments."
She said she also was pleased that all of the stakeholders -- business, labor, big companies, small business, law firms – suggested changes.
Revisions to the rules were placed for a 60-day period of public comment in May, after which Supreme Court Clerk Rory Perry conducted 10 public seminars at locations around the state.
"More than 600 attorneys, court officials and individuals attended public seminars around the state while the rules were open for comment," Davis said. "Of those, we had 42 individuals and organizations submit their written comments to the court."
Davis said the final version of the rules incorporates many changes that were suggested by attorneys and citizens who submitted their comments.
"The court carefully considered the public comments we received," Davis said. "We want to thank the many individuals who provided us with insightful and helpful comments on the draft revisions."
Under the new rules, individuals appealing a circuit court decision will have an appeal of right instead of an appeal by permission.
"We are committed to maintaining a hard-working judicial branch," Davis said. "We've got the best of the best working here."
Davis said in the January court term they will get a good feel for how the new rules will work and will note any changes that need to be made.
"We might need to make minor changes," Perry said. "But, if that's the case, we'll do it."
Davis said she is most hopeful that the new rules will solve the problems they have come across in the court.
The new rules provide a complete, quick and effective method of providing a full review and decision on the merits in all properly prepared appeals. Decisions will be issued in the form of a full opinion or memorandum decision.
"The new rules will eliminate the no reason order so that each appeal will get a reason as to why it has been refused," Davis said. "While this will triple the amount of memorandum decisions that are issued, it won't triple the work load.
"We're ready to go. We're ready to roll them out. We're ready to deal with the cases. We're ready for the public to see what we do and to be as transparent as we can be."
Davis said it is manageable because the court has always thoroughly reviewed cases internally and the new rules make the process more open to the public.
"We have always worked hard," Davis said. "Each and every one of us is willing to put in the hours. Give us a chance to show you that we can do this because I know we can. I'm not afraid to work."
Every circuit court appeal will be fully briefed by both sides before the Court considers the case, a change that will reduce delay and court costs for both sides, according to the new rules.
Davis said the new rules were accomplished without a vast increase in personnel, without any new judges and without a new layer of government that would delay justice.
Davis said the biggest adjustments made to the rules after the public comment period involved "extending some time frames."
"We permitted some reply responses," she said. "We extended the time for argument. It's going to be a lot more work on the lawyers. They are going to have to have all of their pleadings, paperwork and appendixes put together when they file their petition for appeal so we're not hunting through thousands of pages of transcript."
Davis said she thinks citizens and lawyers will be pleased with the changes.
"I think the people of the state of West Virginia should applaud our efforts because we don't want big government," she said. "We're not interested in adding another layer of appeals. It would cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. We're already taxed to the maxed. We believe in good streamline government.
"And based upon their comments, lawyers open to them. The lazy lawyers aren't going to like it one bit. But for the good appellate lawyers, it isn't going to be a problem."
The new rules go into effect in their entirety to all appeals and certified questions arising from ordered entered on our after Dec. 1. For more information on the new rules, go to www.state.wv.us/wvsca.