Intermediate court bill introduced in WV Legislature - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Intermediate court bill introduced in WV Legislature

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The long-standing question of whether West Virginia needs an intermediate court of appeals is once again before the Legislature this session.

House Bill 3130 was introduced March 25 — which was the last day to introduce bills— by Republican Delegates Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha; John D. O'Neal, R-Raleigh; Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia; Joe Ellington, R-Mercer; Carol Miller, R-Cabell; Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha; Gary Howell, R-Mineral; Karen Arvon, R-Raleigh, and Troy Andes, R-Putnam.

The bill would establish an intermediate court of appeals, which would operate under one or more panels with each panel consisting of three judges. No judge would be permanently assigned to the court, according to the bill.

April 3 is the last day for bills to pass the house in which they started or they will automatically die.

So, who would serve on this court? Two of the three judges in the panel would be currently serving or retired circuit judges and one would be a sitting West Virginia Supreme Court justice.

These serving judges would not receive additional compensation.

The court would not have original jurisdiction but would have appellate jurisdiction in issues including title or boundaries of land, probate of wills, habeas corpus, mandamus certiorari and prohibition, constitutionality of a law, criminal cases where there has been a conviction for a felony or misdemeanor in a circuit court conviction that have been affirmed by circuit court, public revenue and workers compensation.

The decision of the intermediate court could be appealed to the state Supreme Court by writ of certiorari, according to the bill.

The bill, referred to the House Judiciary Committee, comes on the heels of House Concurrent Resolution 44, which was introduced earlier this session and referred March 19 to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This resolution calls for a year-long study of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals rules of appellate procedure to see if those rules are working and if they are providing a fair and efficient appeals process.

The study would determine if legislators needed to take more action such as creating an intermediate court.

Also, the goal of the resolution is to settle once and for all whether West Virginia really is a tort hell. Many members cited the American Tort Reform Association's Judicial Hellhole List, which consistently has consistently ranked the Mountain State near the top.

The resolution was up for debate before the full House of Delegates March 18.

The creation of an appellate court and West Virginia's legal hellhole status has been up for debate for years, and the issue of an intermediate court has come up in the Legislature before.

Some argue this court would be expensive and some state Supreme Court justices have mentioned they already read over and issue a decision in every case.

Yet, some still argue the state does not have an automatic right to appeal.

Armstead also introduced an amendment that would maintain the original resolution but extend it to study the effectiveness of intermediate courts.

In that March 18 meeting, Armstead said the language of the resolution implies that West Virginia has done all it can to improve the legal climate and the study would prove that.

He said that is not what other people in the state think.

However, Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, opposed Armstead's amendment saying it put the cart before the horse.

"I think we need to not lose sight of the fact of one of the principal problems with our legal system … has been the fact there's not an automatic right to appeal," Boggs said in the March 18 meeting. "When the Supreme Court made their changes and we became an appeal-by-right state, every single case that's appealed to the Supreme Court, those receive a review by the Supreme Court, receives a written opinion and form all indications, and according to our own West Virginia state Chamber of Commerce that supports the resolution as it's originally offered, agrees it's time to put the issue…let's put the study first. Let's not put the cart before the horse."

This amendment was rejected on voice vote but the resolution was adopted.