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West Virginia Circuit Courts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The West Virginia Circuit Courts are the West Virginia state trial courts of general jurisdiction. They are the only state trial courts in West Virginia that are courts of record. West Virginia's 55 counties are divided into 31 circuits, each comprising anywhere from one to four counties. Different circuits have different numbers of judges; 11 circuits have only a single judge.

Circuit judges were formerly elected in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms. In 2015, the Legislature changed the law to provide that future elections will be on a non-partisan basis. Judges must have engaged in the practice of law for at least five years. When a vacancy occurs, the governor of West Virginia appoints a judge, who must run in the next election to retain his or her seat. Because of the nature of the state's judicial retirement system, resignations near the end of a judge's term are common if the judge is a member of the same political party as the sitting governor.

The circuit courts have original jurisdiction over:

The circuit courts have original appellate jurisdiction involving:

Appeals from the decisions of circuit courts go the state supreme court, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

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Circuit Courts for each county are required by the state constitution, and have existed since the creation of the state. Prior to 1976, the state legislature often established supplemental limited jurisdiction courts of varying jurisdiction in some counties, including Courts of Common Pleas, Criminal Courts, Intermediate Courts, and Divorce Courts. In 1976, all of these courts were abolished. The payment and supervision of judges was also transferred from county to state responsibility in that year.

Divorce jurisdiction was handled in a variety of informal ways until 1986 when a "Family Law Master" system was established, making "recommended decisions" to the judge. This system proved unsatisfactory and was replaced with the West Virginia Family Courts in 2000, and Circuit Court were assigned appellate jurisdiction in such matters.

Prior to the 2000 elections, judges were elected in a form of "jungle" election with a single election for all seats. For example, in Kanawha County, voters were asked to vote for "not more than seven" and the top seven won election. This was replaced with numbered divisions in multi-judge circuits, with a separate vote for one election in each division, so judges do not have to run against one another for re-election.

Beginning with the 2016 elections, judges were elected on a non-partisan basis and the election was moved from a primary in May and a general election in November to a single election in May, giving newly elected judges more time to wind up their practices. The judges elected in the non-partisan election held May 10, 2016 and took office January 1, 2017.

List of judicial circuits

Judicial circuits map
Judicial circuits map
This page was last edited on 19 August 2020, at 02:34
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