By February 27, 2020 Read More →

Opinion: West Virginia lawmakers shouldn’t waste millions on unnecessary Intermediate Court

House Judiciary should reject SB 275 and spend the money on critical programs and infrastructure

Release from West Virginia Association for Justice:

Charleston, W.Va. — The West Virginia Association for Justice today called on the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee and the House of Delegates to reject SB 275, which would add an intermediate court to the West Virginia judicial system.  The proposed court would cost state millions in direct expenses annually and is unnecessary based on the state’s appellate caseload.

“West Virginia does not need an intermediate court.  The appellate caseload has declined by nearly 70 percent since 2000.  You don’t expand the government by creating a whole new court with more judges, more staff and millions in expenses, when the case load is just a fraction of what it once was,” said Kristina Thomas Whiteaker, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.

“What’s more even outrageous is that the corporate and insurance lobbyists demanding this new court want it just for the civil case appeals.  Those cases account for just 13 percent of the cases filed.  In 2018, there were only 155 filed.  You don’t create a whole new layer of courts and spend millions to address 13 percent of the case load.”

West Virginia is one of 10 states without an active intermediate court because the state’s caseload does justify the cost to taxpayers.  New rules implemented by the West Virginia Supreme Court in 2011 guarantee that automatic right of appeal exists.

It is estimated that direct costs for the new intermediate court will be more than $6 million, including $4.8 million in personnel costs.  That amount does not include the millions more that will need to be spent by the legal offices in state departments and agencies that will need to handle increased litigation in front of the new court.

“We have limited tax dollars, and we are in a fiscal crisis.  This is not the time to waste money on an unnecessary intermediate court.  Our tax dollars should be spent on the critical programs and services this state and its residents need–not helping corporate special interests line their pockets at the expense of taxpayers.” 

Get the Facts

–  One in five states does not have an active intermediate court.

·        West Virginia and eight other states have no intermediate court

·        The North Dakota Boondoggle: The North Dakota legislature established that state’s intermediate court in 1987.  In 33 years, that court has heard of total of just 37 cases.  It has not heard a single appeal since 2007.

–  Total appeals have declined by nearly 70 percent, from 3,569 in 1999 to only 1,139 in 2018.  Appeals have declined at a rate four times the national average. (2018 WVSCA Statistical Report)

–  There were just 155 civil case appeals in 2018, down from 402 civil appeals in 2004—a decline of more than 60 percent.

–  The out-of-state special interests behind the push for an intermediate court cite the court’s civil caseload, yet civil appeals for tort cases, contract cases and property make up just 13 percent of the Supreme Court’s cases. 

–  Appeal by right is guaranteed.  Since 2011, the West Virginia Supreme Court has not refused a single appeal.  At the same time, it has increased the number of decisions on the merits from just 670 from 2006 – 2010 to 5,003 from 2011 – 2015, an increase of more than 700 percent.  (2015 WVSCA Statistical Report) 

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