CHARLESTON – A bill to create an intermediate court of appeals in West Virginia has been introduced again in the state Senate.
Sen. Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio) and Sen. Patricia Rucker (R-Berkeley) introduced Senate Bill 341 on Jan. 23. It was referred first to the Senate Judiciary Committee then to Senate Finance.
The bill would create the new court, provide for how it is set up and operated, provide for the election of the judges, set up districts, establish qualifications and jurisdictions and provide the budget for the court. The bill would require the court to be operational by July 1, 2019, and would require Gov. Jim Justice to make initial appointments by July 1 of this year.
Similar bills have been introduced before, including last session. It’s been a topic at the statehouse since at least 2009 when a commission created by former Gov. Joe Manchin proposed it. In 2011, a similar bill said the intermediate court would cost the state about $5 million per year.
Currently, West Virginia is one of only nine states without an intermediate appeals court.
Statewide legal reform group West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit has pushed for the creation of the court for years. And, it is at the top of WV CALA’s legislative priorities this year as well.
“West Virginia is the only state in the country that doesn’t provide a full appeal of right for either civil or criminal litigants,” WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said. “It is one of nine states that do not have at least one intermediate appellate court.”
Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) said creating the court would provide for a quicker turnaround for individuals and businesses seeking to appeal lower court decisions instead of having to go to the state Supreme Court.
“We've talked about it for years,” Carmichael has said. “I’m hopeful this year that we can work very hard to attain that. I think that would be something that would really move West Virginia forward.”