Senate Judiciary recommends intermediate appeals court bill

By Kyla Asbury and Chris Dickerson | Feb 1, 2018

CHARLESTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend the passage of the intermediate appeals court bill to the full Senate and that it be recommended to the committee on finance.

Changes made to the bill since earlier in the week included information on staggered terms.

“Initial nominations will be staggered terms of six, eight and 10 years,” said Sarah Canterbury, counsel for the Judiciary Committee. “Thereafter, nominations would be made at the expiration of a term, so the terms would be naturally staggered.”

The second amendment included that no more than two members of the Judicial Advisory Commission could be from the same state senatorial district.

“Current members would be grandfathered in and not disqualified if they’re already on the commission and happen to be in the same senatorial district,” Canterbury said.

Canterbury said that no two judges on the intermediate appeals court may be from the same county or state senatorial district and that when the governor makes recommendations for judges, no two can be from the same county or state senatorial district.

The 180-day requirement for judges to reach a decision was also changed so that any motion pending before the court for more than three months and any case that has not been disposed of in six months must be included in the report submitted bi-annually to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

There were senators who agreed and didn’t agree with the bill, but, ultimately, more were in favor of it.

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.

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