The West Virginia House of Delegates did the right thing when it voted a day before the 2020 session ended to kill legislation to create an intermediate appeals court.
As we’ve stated before, the only people who want an appeals court between the circuit courts and West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals are those carrying the water for mostly out-of-state interests, intent on tipping the legal system in their favor.
That’s about the only motivation that makes any sense for an intermediate court in a state with less than 2 million people. There doesn’t appear to be a massive backlog of cases at any level. Indeed, the number of appeals in West Virginia have dropped substantially over the past 20 years. And the Supreme Court now automatically considers any case on appeal. An appeals court would have allowed business interests potentially on the hook to drag litigants through another round of proceedings, perhaps breaking their banks or their spirits, if not generally making the process go a lot slower. It was never about justice.
There was a queasy glimpse into the sausage-making of West Virginia politics last week when Delegate Scott Cadle, R-Mason, revealed on the House floor he had been promised a vote for one of his bills in the Senate if he would support the intermediate court proposal. Cadle is assistant majority whip, so he was probably expected to play along. He didn’t.
The defeat of the intermediate courts bill was the third strikeout for GOP leadership in the 2020 session as it pertained to flagship legislation. Also contributing to the O-fer were the failure of bills to eliminate dog racing funding (effectively killing the sport) and to phase out the inventory tax. These whiffs included some Republicans crossing the aisle to vote against their party’s leadership.
That has to sting a bit. But, as Gazette-Mail statehouse reporter Phil Kabler pointed out in his Sunday column, none of those bills addressed real issues West Virginians seemed exceedingly energized about on one side or the other. Even the dog racing bill, which could certainly be an emotional issue for some, was mostly organized and lobbied by out-of-state interests.
Some of these issues are likely to return (GOP leadership has tried for an appeals court three times in just the past few years). It’s encouraging to know, especially as it pertains to the court bill, that legislators realized those they’re aligned with in party affiliation or political leanings outside the state don’t always know what’s best for West Virginia.