CHARLESTON – The “new” state Supreme Court has new policies, and the chief justice wants the public to see them.
“We thought the best way to get the word out about these new policies is to put them on our website,” Chief Justice Beth Walker told The West Virginia Record. “People can see we’re doing these things and not just talking about them.”
The new policies posted this week focus on: Travel Policy and Standards, Acceptable Use of Information Systems and Resources Policy, Asset Management Policy and Procedure as well as Purchasing Card Policy and Procedure.
“Through the course of the last year, the legislative auditor have made note of policies that were lacking at the court,” Walker told The Record. “I put my attention on them right away. The initial ones are done and now posted.
“We’ll be adding more soon. I anticipate our new procurement policy will be approved soon. We’re working on new IT policies as well, and we’re in the process of finalizing our revised employee handbook.”
Walker said the new policies are part of the court’s ongoing initiative to right the ship after the tumultuous past year.
“The Supreme Court is committed to transparency and accountability,” she said. “As promised, my fellow Justices and I have been working together to establish formal written policies and procedures addressing an array of judicial system administration areas. This is only the beginning.”
The Travel Policy and Standards applies to all employees and elected officials and makes it clear that state vehicles may only be used for official purposes.
The policy also imposes detailed reporting of the use of state vehicles and requires prompt and complete submission of only appropriate travel expenses for reimbursement. The 19 state vehicles used by the court are now enrolled in the state’s fleet management and maintenance programs.
In October, the court directed that the state cars used exclusively in the past by certain justices be repurposed for use by any employee who travels for court business.
The Acceptable Use of Information Systems and Resources Policy makes clear that personal items may not be used or stored on the court’s computers.
The Asset Management Policy and Procedure shows that all state property and equipment overseen by the court was inventoried and catalogued in the state’s computer system (OASIS) as of August 2018.
The Purchasing Card Policy and Procedure defines acceptable use of state-issued purchasing cards. It addresses cash handling, credit card handling and vendor 1099s.
“We are posting our new policies on the West Virginia Judiciary website, and will continue to do so, because we intend to keep our promise to West Virginia citizens to be open, responsible, and accountable,” Walker said. “All five justices are working now as a team dedicated to regaining trust and confidence in the judiciary.
“The Supreme Court will no longer operate without essential policies. There are examples of actions we already have taken.”
Walker said the feedback the court has received so far has been positive.
“Legislators are pleased we’re working hard on this,” she told The Record. “We highlighted these policies in both of our finance committee budget hearings as well as during a joint finance committee meeting we had before the session began. We’ve also received good support from the state auditor and his staff. They’ve been really helpful with this.”
Walker said the court has been working with lawmakers on the court budget, which has allowed it to establish better lines of communication with them and forge better relationships. And while the court hasn’t taken an official stance on any of the bills currently being discussed by the Legislature, Walker said she wants court officials to be available as resources to talk about these bills.
“We’ve been talking to folks as they take up the foster care managed care bill,” Walker said. “Same with the intermediate court bill. We’ve given them lots of feedback and data. We can be helpful. Same with the veterans treatment court bill and the family treatment court bill.”
Walker also said the “new” court is working well together.
“Yeah, we’re calling it the new court,” Walker said. “That’s a term I’m happy with. And as we’ve been out and about, I think we’ve been getting a positive reaction. People feel like the court, as a body, took seriously all of the things we’ve been through and took seriously all of the feedback we’ve received. We’re trying to do the things that need to be done to make the court the best it can be.
“We’re completely current on our cases. We all get along really well. All five of us are working as a team. Everybody is pitching in. It’s really great. It’s really a nice working environment.”
The new policies can be found online at http://www.courtswv.gov/court-administration/judiciary-policies.html.