Home > Appellate Courts, Attorneys, Governor Manchin, Legal Reform, Politics, West Virginia Judicial System, West Virginia Supreme Court > Governor Manchin Announces Judicial Modernization Commission

Governor Manchin Announces Judicial Modernization Commission

In his State-of-the State on February 11, 2009, Governor Manchin addressed the issue of legal reform, during which he announced that he would sign an executive order appointing a commission to study how to modernize West Virginia’s court system.   In addressing this issue,  Governor Manchin made the following points:

There is one other significant area that involves judges which must also be addressed if we are to truly show that we’re willing to tackle West Virginia’s perceived challenges: Legal reform.

We must not let partisan politics prevent us from openly and honestly evaluating our judicial system, which, justified or unjustified, has been under attack. Instead, we should objectively examine the structural aspects of our court system.

Our Supreme Court of Appeals is the busiest appellate court of its kind in the entire country, yet West Virginia is one of only 10 states that lack an intermediate appellate court of some kind.  We are one of only seven states that use partisan elections to select every member of its judiciary.

And, year after year, the growing responsibilities of the judicial branch have led to a corresponding increase in the court’s budget. That is why I am going to sign an executive order that creates a commission to immediately begin studying how we can modernize our state court system. This commission will be directed to look at all options, including creating an intermediate court, improving the judicial budget process, achieving more transparency in our judicial election campaigns, as well as the best method for selecting judges. We will work with a broad group of people, including judges, legislators and the private sector, to determine our next step in modernizing our judicial system.

This is not the first commission which has studied the West Virginia judiciary.  On October 2, 1997, the West Virginia Supreme Court, under the direction of then Chief Justice Margaret Workman, entered an Order appointing a “Commission On The Future Of The West Virginia Judicial System.”  That commission was comprised of thirty-eight members representing various West Virginia groups and points of view.  It worked through various committees, held a number of hearings and issued its final report and recommendations to the Court in December 1998.  Some of the recommendations were followed and implemented.  Others were not. I had the privilege of serving as counsel to the Access to Justice Subcommittee of that Commission.  One issue the Subcommittee and Commission addressed was the “Accessibility And Efficiency Of The Appellate Process.”  Upon studying and comparing West Virginia’s appellate court system to those of other states, the Commission recommended that steps be taken to create an intermediate appellate court.  The Commission’s detailed recommendations can be found in the Commission’s full report posted on the West Virginia Supreme Court’s website.  This issue and others will apparently be addressed by Governor Manchin’s new commission.


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