The initiation of a feasibility study for a business court and the establishment of an intermediate appellate court were two of the more attractive recommendations made by Gov. Joe Manchin's Independent Commission on Judicial Reform.
The West Virginia Business Court Committee was established by the State Supreme Court last June to study how best to create a business court in jurisdictions with more than 60,000 residents, in accordance with House Bill 4352, passed by the Legislature in March 2010. The Committee introduced the concept at a public forum in November and will invite comments and criticism from all concerned in the near future.
Recently, the state Senate passed a bill to create an intermediate appeals court. Now in the hands of the House of Delegates, this new three-judge panel would begin operating no later than Jan. 1, 2013. Petitions for appeal still will be filed with our State Supreme Court, but cases it declines will be transferred to the intermediate appeals court.
The new court would have jurisdiction to hear appeals from final judgments or orders entered by a circuit court in a civil or criminal case, as well as appeals from the Workers Compensation Board of Review and the Public Service Commission.
It would be a welcome change.
For too long West Virginia has suffered a reputation as a hostile environment for business. Established firms have scaled back, closed, or relocated; companies that might have come here have gone elsewhere instead.
With these reforms, we have a chance to stem the hemorrhaging and encourage the influx of new blood.
When they're up and running, the new business court and the new intermediate appellate court would help give our state the judicial makeover it's long needed and help transform West Virginia's business climate into an appealing one.
We urge the House of Delegates to put its legislative seal of approval on the new intermediate appellate court. This golden opportunity cannot slip through our hands.