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As part of its role in administering the new intermediate court of appeals, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals will establish an advisory council, Chief Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins announced Tuesday.

The council will be part of setting up the intermediate court, which is scheduled to be fully operational in July 2022.

The advisory council will be made up of 20 members from various stakeholders in the court system, including attorneys and judges, as well as representatives from the Legislature and the Governor’s Office, Jenkins said in a news release.

“The Court feels strongly that a key to success is the opportunity for stakeholder engagement,” Jenkins said. “We are committed to transparency. The Court is always working to build and maintain the trust and confidence of the citizens that justice in West Virginia is fair, impartial, and without bias. I believe creating the advisory council is an important step in the process.”

Jenkins, Supreme Court Clerk Edythe Nash Gaiser, and Supreme Court Administrative Director Joseph Armstrong will serve as ex-officio members of the council and be responsible for appointing the other members of the committee.

The advisory council will be entirely separate from the pre-existing Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission. That commission is set to meet Sept. 7 to begin work on appointing the three judges who will serve on the intermediate court.

After at least five years of running a bill to establish the intermediate court, the Legislature adopted Senate Bill 275 earlier this year.

Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill into law on April 9.

The law established a single district intermediate court that will have three judges, who will be appointed by Justice in 2022, based on the recommendations of the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission.

Residents will get to vote on the judges in 2024, 2026 and 2028. After those elections, the judges will serve 10-year terms.

On March 4, House Judiciary Committee general counsel Joey Spano said the court is estimated to cost $5.7 million a year to operate. House Judiciary Chairman Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, later said the House had heard the “$5 million number,” but said the court would cost $3.6 million during its first year and $2 million each year thereafter.

Each of the three intermediate court judges on the court will be paid $142,500 annually, and the court will convene as-needed in available courtroom facilities throughout the state.

Filing an appeal with the court will cost $200, and the filing fee and other fees collected by the court would go to the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund.

The law allows the Supreme Court to “pluck” cases pending in the intermediate court, especially if those cases are time sensitive.

The intermediate court will consider appeals that now go to the Supreme Court, the Workers’ Compensation Review Board or the West Virginia Insurance Commission’s Office of Judges. The Office of Judges would be terminated, and the Workers’ Compensation Review Board would be expanded.

Seven types of cases can be appealed, but not automatically, to the intermediate court:

  • Final judgments of circuit court judges in civil cases.
  • Final judgments of family court judges.
  • Final judgments of circuit court judges in guardianship and conservatorship matters.
  • Judgments in administrative appeals, which, by law, are filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
  • Decisions by the West Virginia Health Care Authority regarding certificates of need.
  • Decisions from the Office of Judges in the West Virginia Insurance Commission, before the office is terminated.
  • Final orders of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review issued after June 30, 2022.

Cases that would be automatically appealed to the Supreme Court, and bypass the intermediate court altogether, include criminal, juvenile, child abuse and neglect, and mental hygiene, as well as certified questions of law from circuit and federal courts.

After the intermediate court issues a ruling in a given case, that case could then be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Lacie Pierson covers politics. She can be reached at 304-348-1723 or Follow @laciepierson on Twitter.

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