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The state's Courts System is comprised of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, then trial courts including Circuit, Magistrate, and Family type courts. There is a slight mention of Municipal Courts in this state but no listing of them on the judicial branch website. They cite only three levels of trial courts for the state.
The state of WV 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 highest court in the state has five justices that hear all the appeals coming from Circuits and administrative agencies. They also process some appeals from Magistrate Courts and some from Family as well. The Supreme Court of Appeals has extraordinary writ powers over habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, and certiorari.
The highest court 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 WV 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 public records here will be available to the general public. However, according to state laws and United States federal law, 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, mental hygiene records, 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.
WV makes it easy for patrons of the court system to file a case. They have an extensive area of forms on the state's Judiciary website (wv.gov). 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, this state 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 WV records using the Infotracer system! Access thousands of court cases in WV, including Cabell, Charleston, Hancock, Kanawha, Martinsburg, Kanawha County, Berkeley County, and Monongalia County, quickly and easily. Per WV Freedom of Information Act W.Va. Code §29B-1-1 et seq., private citizens have the right to review dockets, criminal records, civil cases, family matters, court decisions, grand jury dictates, docket sheets, some vital records, West Virginia code, West Virginia public records, estates, trusts, bankruptcies and more.
Anyone may conduct a records search privately without a reason or any special authorization. Most all records are online except those that have been sealed by law or the court system.
Using Infotracer, enjoy free instant access to WV records from Circuit, Magistrate, and Family courts in all 31 judicial districts. The best way to lookup court cases online is through a WV 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.
|Domestic Relations Caseload
|Total Statewide Caseload
Circuit Courts are the highest trial courts in the state and courts of general jurisdiction. Circuit judges are authorized to hear both civil and criminal issues. The Mountain State has 31 of these courts with seventy-five judges presiding. The types of cases found in these 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. These courts are just below the Supreme Court in terms of authority and jurisdiction, and they are part of the WV unified justice system. Patrons can visit the Circuit Clerk's office with questions they have about these courts.
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. These courts are the “people’s court” because most people will have contact with the court system here. Also, most cases in these courts will be self-represented. This state 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 Circuits and above Magistrates 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. The state has forty-seven Family courthouse judges across twenty-seven circuits. Appeals from these cases will go to either Circuits or directly to the Supreme Court.