Work is now underway to hammer out the details of an additional court to the state’s judicial system, which could begin considering cases as early as July. The legislation creating an Intermediate Court of Appeals was signed into law in April, but a lot of work has to be done to staff and organize the new court.

“It’s a daunting process, but we’re the best ones to get this court up and running,” said John Hutchison, chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. 

Hutchison, along with the four other justices on the state’s Supreme Court are responsible for setting up the new court.

The Supreme Court justices will continue to directly hear appeals of all criminal case decisions decided in the circuit courts and various civil cases. The Intermediate Court of Appeals will hear appeals of civil cases involving workers compensation disputes, appeals from state agencies or administrative law judges, and appeals from family court decisions not involving criminal acts.

Also, a party may file for a direct review by the Supreme Court if the appeal involves “a question of fundamental public importance” and “involves exigencies,” such as a case where a person in imminent danger might need a court ruling.

The Supreme Court will also still have the authority to change the Intermediate Court’s decisions. The legislation creating the Intermediate Court states that, “The Supreme Court may, on its own accord, obtain jurisdiction over any civil case appealed to the Intermediate Court of Appeals.” 

Hutchison said the Supreme Court will handle a number of civil appeals including those dealing with cases involving the state’s constitution or certain writs like habeas corpus, actions requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s possible release from jail.  

Numerous meetings are taking place concerning the new intermediate court, Hutchison said. Some of the decisions being discussed include where the court will be held, such in a central location like Charleston.

Whether the court’s sessions will be held remotely and what would have to be done to make that happen is still under consideration, Hutchison said. Some rule changes in the lower courts might also have to be adjusted, he said.  

As West Virginia’s highest court, the Supreme Court had been the court of last resort for appeals before the creation of the Intermediate Court. State Delegate Wayne Clark, a Republican and assistant majority whip representing the 65th House District in Jefferson County, said he was pleased by the formation of the Intermediate Court.

“I think it will take some of the stress off the state Supreme Court of Appeals,” Clark said. “People will have another opportunity to have their appeals heard. It will help everyone in the state.” 

Clark, who serves on the House of Delegates small business and economic development committee, owns and operates the Locust Hill Golf Course in Charles Town. Clark said the golf course has 168 acres “intermingled with different properties.” He said he hasn’t had any problems with lawsuits concerning boundary lines, but was glad the new court would handle such issues for possibly faster decisions.

Hutchison said the Supreme Court handles about 1,000 cases a year. He said West Virginia had been one of seven states nationwide that didn’t have an intermediate appeals court because of the state’s relatively smaller population. 

Gov. Jim Justice recently appointed the three judges for the new court: Thomas E. Scarr of Huntington, for a term of two-and-a-half years; Daniel W. Greear of Charleston, for a term of four-and-a-half years; and Donald A. Nickerson Jr. of Wheeling, for a term of six-and-a-half years. The three new judges will have to be formally approved by the West Virginia Senate.

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