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The West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals, established in 2022, is a three-judge panel that rules on appeals related to civil guardianship or conservatorship cases, cases from state agencies, and decisions and orders from the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review that, prior to this court’s inception, had been reviewed by an internal Office of Judges. The court’s opinions, orders, and decisions are considered binding precedents for the decisions of all circuit courts, family courts, magistrate courts, and state administrative agencies unless overruled or modified by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

The concept of an Intermediate Court in West Virginia first originated in 1974, when state voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to create such an appeals level. However, the West Virginia state legislature did not adopt the idea until passing Senate Bill 275 in 2021. The court officially came into existence on July 1, 2022, making West Virginia the 42nd state to adopt such a court.

Prior to the establishment of an Intermediate Court, family court decisions had to be appealed to circuit courts, creating large backlogs of cases and bogging down the system since the main purpose of circuit courts is to try cases, not to hear appeals. The principal argument against the court was cost. Proponents, though, contended that the Intermediate Court would not only alleviate the strain on circuit courts and accelerate how quickly appeals are handled, but also allow more time and thoroughness for reviews. This issue had become more critical in the early 21st century due to a significant increase in family court cases and appeals.

While not the main point of emphasis, the Intermediate Court also alleviates some of the Supreme Court’s review of state agency appeals, including public employee grievances and other employment disputes. Notably, parties can still appeal directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the Intermediate Court, and the Supreme Court can directly obtain jurisdiction over any case on its own accord.

The first three Intermediate Court judges appointed by Governor Jim Justice were Daniel W. Greear, Judge Donald A. Nickerson Jr., and Thomas E. Scarr; however, Nickerson resigned in March 2022, before the court’s commencement, and was replaced by Charles Lorensen. Each judge serves a staggered 10-year term. The three-judge body ensures a majority decision will be rendered in each case.

While the initial appointees were named by the governor, future Intermediate Court judges will be selected by voters in nonpartisan elections, the first ones being scheduled for 2024, 2026, and 2028. In case of a vacancy prior to the end of a judge’s term, the governor appoints a successor, with assistance from the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission.

Each judge’s salary is set at $142,500. To serve on the court, a judge must be a member of the West Virginia State Bar for at least 10 years, be a resident of West Virginia for at least five years before the election or appointment, serve full time on the Intermediate Court, and resign before running for another office.

The Intermediate Court meets in Charleston but has satellite courtrooms in Raleigh, Lewis, Grant, Morgan, and Wetzel counties, allowing parties to appear virtually via the Internet.

This Article was written by Stan Bumgardner

Last Revised on August 03, 2022


Sources

Douglas, Eric. New W.Va. Appellate Court Begins Work. West Virginia Public Broadcasting, July 5, 2022. View online.

West Virginia Judiciary. Visit website.

Cite This Article

Bumgardner, Stan "Intermediate Court of Appeals." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 03 August 2022. Web. 11 August 2022.

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