CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis said the cost of the creation of an intermediate appeals court in West Virginia cannot be left out of any discussions about the possibility during the 2014 Regular Legislative Session.
Davis estimated that cost, for a court where appeals from circuit courts would first be heard, could add up to millions of dollars each year during a time when state revenues are already stretched thin.
“They (lawmakers) will be very prudent if they look at the results that we’re achieving with our appellate court rules and they took a look at the fiscal responsibility that our judiciary has implemented,” she said.
“I hope they’re more fiscally responsible to the citizens of West Virginia than to make such an irrational decision (in creating another court).”
Currently, all appeals from the circuit courts are filed with the state Supreme Court.
Those critical of West Virginia’s judicial system have continually cited the lack of an intermediate court of appeals as a factor contributing to, what they see as, a lack of fairness in the judiciary. Supporters of the current system have argued such a middle layer for appeals is not needed in a state of West Virginia’s size.
Davis said changes made to the Supreme Court’s appellate rules, in recent years, have adequately addressed earlier complaints about the appeals process in the Mountain State.
Last year, she said, was a record year for the Supreme Court with a total of 1,315 opinions and decisions issued, a number of opinions that exceeded filings during the 12 month period.
“They’re getting a decision based upon case law that has existed in West Virginia. We explain why the decision came down the way it did and there’s always a winner and a loser in a court of law,” said Davis. “Everybody does, in fact, get their day in court.”
The 2014 Regular Legislative Session begins at the State House next Wednesday. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will deliver his State of the State Address to members of the state Senate and state House of Delegates on Wednesday night.
Justices will hear the first arguments of 2014 during the week of Jan. 14. Chief Justice Davis will be serving her sixth term in that role.