Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | February 22, 2010

Kentucky environmental attorney looks at West Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals.

Did you know that the Supreme Court of Appeals is West Virginia’s highest court and the court of last resort. West Virginia is one of only 11 states with a single appellate court.

According to its website, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is the busiest appellate court of its type in the United States.  The five justices are elected in partisan elections to a whopping 12-year terms.

To be eligible for West Virginia’s appellate court, Justices must have practiced law for at least 10 years. The position of chief justice is chosen annually by members of the court.  The governor appoints justices to fill vacancies. An appointee who wishes to remain in office must run in the next election.

In addition to deciding appellate cases, the justices also have extraordinary writ powers and original jurisdiction in proceedings of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, and certiorari.

The Justices also interpret the laws and Constitutions of West Virginia and the United States. In a rather bizarre twist of law, the Court’s appellate jurisdiction is entirely discretionary with the Court. It may either grant or refuse review of any case.  Thus, you now know the extreme power of the state’s only appellate court in civil and criminal cases.

The five Supreme Court justices hear appeals of decisions over all matters decided in the circuit courts, including criminal convictions affirmed on appeal from magistrate court and appeals from administrative agencies.

Workers’ compensation appeals are unique, and are appealed directly to the Supreme Court from the administrative agency. The Supreme Court justices also hear appeals of decisions decided in family court if both parties agree that they will not appeal directly to the circuit court.

Arguments before the Supreme Court of Appeals are presented by attorneys. After justices have heard oral arguments and reviewed attorneys’ written materials, known as briefs, they issue written decisions, or opinions. Supreme Court of Appeals opinions can be appealed only to the Supreme Court of the United States which may or may not agree to consider an appeal.

There are two terms of the Court each year. The first term begins on the second Tuesday in January and ends in July. The second term begins on the first Wednesday in September and ends in December. 

When the Court is in session, the justices hear cases and deliver opinions. At other times, the justices consider the emergency business that comes before the Court. In addition to its judicial functions, the Supreme Court of Appeals has administrative and regulatory responsibilities.

Sounds to me like the Justices of West Virginia have their hands full.

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