West Virginia’s Courts System is comprised of a Supreme Court of Appeals, then trial courts including Circuit Courts, Magistrate Courts, and Family Courts. There is a slight mention of Municipal Courts in West Virginia but no listing of them on the judicial branch website. They cite only three levels of trial courts for the state.
West Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals is the highest court in the state and the court of last resort. It is also the only appellate court for the state. Only eight other states have only one appellate court. The Supreme Court of Appeals has five justices that hear all the appeals coming from Circuit Court and administrative agencies. They also process some appeals from Magistrate Courts and some from Family Courts as well. The Supreme Court of Appeals has extraordinary writ powers over habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, and certiorari.
The Supreme Court of Appeals also has supervisory control over the entire judicial branch and all lower courts. It is their job to interpret and apply the laws of the West Virginia Constitution.
The Supreme Court of Appeals holds only two terms per year. The first starts in January and ends in June and the second starts in September and ends in November.
Most court records in West Virginia will be available to the general public. However, certain records such as juvenile files including adoptions and delinquency, sealed and expunged records will not be available. Additionally, any files that were court ordered to be private or confidential information such as children’s names, social security numbers, corporate trade secrets, banking information, security clearance information and details, tax IDs and other personal identifiers will also not be included. The Court Clerk’s Office must redact those items before making the files public.
West Virginia makes it easy for patrons of the court system to file a case. They have an extensive area of forms on their West Virginia Judiciary website. The forms are split into sections of common case types like divorce, domestic violence, family court forms, personal safety forms, mental health issues, guardianship, and workers’ compensation claims. Additionally, West Virginia offers an e-filing option using their WV E-File system. They started a statewide initiative in 2013 that promises to bring e-filing to all the courts in the state by 2020.
It’s easy to search for West Virginia court records using the Infotracer system! Access thousands of court cases in West Virginia, including Kanawha County, Berkeley County, and Monongalia County, quickly and easily. Per West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act W.Va. Code §29B-1-1 et seq., private citizens have the right to review criminal court records, civil cases, family court matters, estates, trusts, bankruptcies and more.
Anyone may conduct a court records search privately without a reason or any special authorization. Most all court records are online except those that have been sealed by law or the court system.
Using Infotracer, enjoy free instant access to West Virginia court records from circuit courts, magistrate courts and family courts in all 31 judicial districts. The best way to lookup court cases online is through a West Virginia state court records search by name.
In 2012, the West Virginia courts received 143,974 filings. In 2015, the number of filings decreased by 13.2% and counted 124,941 filings and had 97,970 outgoing cases
Domestic relations caseload of West Virginia at year end of 2015 has decreased by 14.5% compared to the last 4 years, in 2012 the number of incoming cases have been 68,145 but are higher than in 2014.
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West Virginia’s Circuit Courts are the highest trial courts in the state and courts of general jurisdiction. They are authorized to hear both civil and criminal issues. West Virginia has 31 Circuit Courts with seventy-five judges presiding. The types of cases found in Circuit Courts are tort cases, civil cases of more than $7,500, exclusive probate/estate cases, mental health issues, civil appeals, domestic relations cases, exclusive felonies, misdemeanors, criminal appeals, and juvenile matters. Circuit Courts are just below the Supreme Court in terms of authority and jurisdiction, and they are part of West Virginia’s unified justice system.
West Virginia’s Magistrate Courts are the lowest trial courts in the state and limited jurisdiction courts. These courts, although at the bottom of the judiciary pyramid, see more cases than any other in the state. These courts hear small claims cases of up to $5,000, civil issues including protective orders, misdemeanor cases, preliminary hearings for felonies and serious crimes, juvenile matters, and traffic infractions. Magistrate Courts are the “people’s court” because most people will have contact with the court system here. Also, most cases in Magistrate Courts will be self-represented. West Virginia has 158 magistrates, with at least two per county and as many as ten in some counties.
In November of 2000, the state Legislature approved an amendment to split Family Courts off as their own entity. They sit below Circuit Courts and above Magistrate Courts on the pyramid structure. These courts hear all types of cases related to families in crisis. The types of cases include divorce, separation, child support, child abuse and neglect, annulment, palimony, paternity, termination of parental rights, and other domestic situation cases. West Virginia has forty-seven Family Court judges across twenty-seven circuits. Appeals from these cases will go to either Circuit Courts or directly to the Supreme Court.