Decision highlights need for new appellate court

An editorial from the Charleston Daily Mail 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In 2010, critics of West Virginia’s justice system were calling attention to the fact that this state was the only one in the country that did not grant litigants an automatic right to appeal lower court decisions.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals sought to quiet the criticism — and prevent the creation of an intermediate appellate court — by promising to hear all appeals directly. That move increased the court’s workload so much that it now says it’s the busiest court of its type in the nation.

Too busy, in fact. There are so many appeals that the court is forced to decide most by issuing so-called “memorandum decisions,” which are unsigned, unpublished, and may feature only cursory discussion of the facts and applicable law.

In a decision last week, the court essentially admitted what has long been apparent to practitioners: It is not giving its memorandum decisions the careful attention and consideration that justice demands.

In last week’s case, involving whether a workers’ compensation claim was time-barred, Justice Robin Davis, joined by Chief Justice Margaret Workman and justices Brent Benjamin and Menis Ketchum, swept away several of the court’s previous opinions — all memorandum decisions — by declaring “we cannot say that such prior decisions have fully considered and analyzed the applicable statutory and jurisprudential law.”

That is an astonishing admission…

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