West Virginia Court Records
West Virginia’s judicial branch is represented by multiple courts, including the Supreme Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, Family Courts, Magistrate Courts, and Municipal Courts. Each type of court documents its courtroom proceedings leading to the creation of publicly accessible court records, a valuable resource to the public and law professionals alike. Some may use the court records for locating a decision on a similar case before filing a new case, or use the records for genealogical research, compiling vital records with historical court findings.
History of West Virginia Court Records
The history of West Virginia court records begins in June, 1864 when Congress reorganized the boundaries of the Western District of Virginia into what is now known as West Virginia. The justice serving at the time of the change became the first justice of the District Court in the state and was given authority over the Circuit Court jurisdiction as well. In 1901 Congress divided West Virginia into two judicial districts naming them Northern and Southern Districts. It wasn’t until 1983 that permanent judgeship was made regulatory in both districts.
West Virginia Court Records Availability
In 1928 the State Law Library of West Virginia moved location to the East Wing of the State Capitol Building, where it still resides today. The collection of the library includes over 150,000 volumes of legal material available for public use. The library employs librarians who strive to assist the Supreme Court of Appeals as well as the public in searching for court records.
Main Court Information
The Supreme Court of Appeals in West Virginia is the highest court of the state and known as the court of last resort. Currently there is no intermediate court of appeals under the Supreme Court of Appeal, but the state constitution allowed for it with discretion as the need arises. This highest court has a Chief Justice and four associate justices each elected to 12 year terms. The Supreme Court of Appeal has authority over cases which require the interpretation of the state and federal constitutions. Also, it is responsible for maintaining the legal bar of West Virginia through admission or dismissal of attorneys and justices.
The Circuit Court system of West Virginia includes 66 justices which serve 55 counties divided into 31 circuits. These are also known as trial courts with jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases alike. Circuit Courts also receive appeals from lower courts of the state.
There are 27 Family Courts in West Virginia which were established beginning in 2000 to handle cases of family law including, divorce, custody, visitation, and annulments. Magistrate Courts serve the state by hearing misdemeanor cases, issuing search and arrest warrants, and presiding over civil cases of $5000 or less. Lastly, the Municipal Courts of the state preside over local ordinance violations.
The caseload for the Supreme Court of Appeals varies from year to year. In 2012 there were 1,524 filings and 908 dispositions. In contrast to that, 2008 had 2,411 filings reported and 4,102 dispositions were given by the Supreme Court of Appeals.