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In West Virginia, judicial reforms proposed



The Independent Commission on Judicial Reform on Sunday submitted its final report on the West Virginia judicial system to Gov. Joe Manchin. (Full 150-page report available here.) Acknowledging the state's reputation as a "Judicial Hellhole" hostile to business, the governor created the panel in early April and appointed members on June 15 (news release). Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was honorary chairman.

The commission cited three trends that shaped its report: erosion of the public's confidence in the state's justice system as a neutral and unbiased arbiter; the steadily increasing caseload before the Supreme Court of Appeals; and the surge in judicial campaign expenditures in the past few years. The report's recommendations:

  • First, the Legislature should adopt a public financing pilot program for one of the two open Supreme Court of Appeals seats in the 2012 election.
  • Second, the Legislature should codify a version of the advisory committee process currently used by the Governor to assist in the appointment of candidates to fill interim vacancies in the judiciary.
  • Third, the Legislature should act to establish an intermediate appellate court.
  • Finally, the Commission requests that Supreme Court of Appeals undertake a study of the feasibility of establishing a business court in West Virginia.

The creation of an intermediate appeals court is the most significant change proposed, and the American Tort Reform Association -- which has worked hard on West Virginia's judicial problems -- issued a news release praising that recommendation. ATRA's president, Sherman "Tiger" Joyce, said, "Such a court would ease the burden on the Supreme Court of Appeals, freeing the high court to continue hearing a discretionary docket focused on important or novel legal issues. An intermediate appeals court could also pay for itself within a matter of years, as employers nationwide become more confident in establishing themselves in West Virginia, and the state's economy and tax revenues steadily grow."

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.