Summary Review of Court Systems -
Structure of Civil Courts
Each of West Virginia’s 55 counties has its own court system, though some circuits are made up of more than one county, resulting in judges sitting in more than one county in some cases. Each county court also includes a magistrate court, for small claims of up to $10,000.00, and a family court for divorce and custody disputes.
West Virginia has one appellate court, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, which consists of five justices who preside together over all accepted appeals. Civil appeals are discretionary in West Virginia.
Basis of Jurisdiction
Circuit courts have jurisdiction over all civil cases over $7,500.00 with limited exceptions. They receive appeals from magistrate courts, municipal courts, and administrative agencies, excluding workers’ compensation appeals. Magistrate courts have jurisdiction over civil cases in which the amount in dispute is less than $10,000.00.
West Virginia opened a Business Court Division in 2012. This Court is designed to handle complex commercial litigation between businesses. The Division is appropriate for disputes which present “commercial and/or technology issues in which specialized treatment is likely to improve the expectation of a fair and reasonable resolution of the controversy because of the need for specialized knowledge or expertise in the subject matter or familiarity with some specific law or legal principles that may be applicable” and generally do not involve consumer litigation. WV Trial Court Rule 29.03 (2) and (3). Business Court cases are heard throughout the state by Business Court Judges. Pursuant to the aforementioned statute and rule, the state is divided into seven regions with the various circuits grouped together into those regions.
The Business Court Division has no original jurisdiction so a case must be referred to the Division. Any party, or the judge, may file a motion to refer a case to the Division; however, a party must file the motion within the first three months of filing the action. The Rule generally contemplates that the case will be heard in the county in which it was filed, but if the Judge does not preside in that county, the possibility exists that the case may be heard in any county within the region. Cases pending in Business Court will be assigned a Presiding Judge to preside over the case and a Resolution Judge who is authorized to schedule and conduct mediation or any other ADR as may be agreed to by the parties and the Resolution Judge.
Though mediation is not strictly required under the rules, most circuit judges will suggest mediation. Circuit judges are authorized by WV Trial Court Rule 25.03 to refer cases to mediation “on its own motion, upon the motion of any party, or by stipulation of the parties” and many do so as a matter of routine practice.
In West Virginia, mediation “is an informal, non-adversarial process whereby a neutral third person, the mediator, assists disputing parties to resolve by agreement or examine some or all of the differences between them.” WV Trial Court Rule 25.02. “In mediation, decision-making discretion remains with the parties; the mediator has no authority to render a judgment on any issue of the dispute.” Id.
WV Trial Court Rules 25.05 and 25.06 govern selection and compensation of mediators. However, it is common practice of many circuit courts to make provisions for the timing and process of selecting the mediator and his or her compensation in the case scheduling order.
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