The West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended passage of the intermediate appeals court bill to the full senate with several amendments.
It amended the bill to provide for staggered terms for court members and to prohibit more than two judges from the same county or state senatorial district (or more than two members of the Judicial Advisory Commission from the same state senatorial district) serving at the same time.
The committee also changed the 180-day requirement for judges to reach a decision. Any motion pending before the court for more than three months and any case not disposed of in six months must now be included in the report submitted bi-annually to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
The bill specifies how this new court is to be organized and operated, how its judges are to be elected, what districts and jurisdictions it will be comprised of, what qualifications its members shall possess, and what its initial budget should be.
If the court is established, Gov. Jim Justice would make the initial six appointments by July 1 of this year, and the court would begin operating by the first of July next year. At that point, West Virginia would cease to be one of only nine U.S. states lacking an appellate court between its circuit and supreme courts. Plaintiffs and defendants losing at the circuit level would have a better chance of securing a second hearing of the case.
Intermediate appellate courts make a state's business climate friendlier to commercial interests. State boosters have advocated for years for just that reason. Who would oppose efforts to revitalize our state economy and give our citizens a chance to enjoy some of the prosperity that citizens in other states take for granted?
It's been nine years since former Gov. Joe Manchin’s Independent Commission on Judicial Reform recommended the establishment of an intermediate appellate court, and here we are still talking about it.
Now is the time to act.