Judicial selection in West Virginia

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in West Virginia
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Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   12 years
West Virginia Circuit Court
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
West Virginia Family Courts
Method:   Partisan elections
Term:   6 years initially, 8 years subsequent
West Virginia Magistrate Courts
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years

Judicial selection in West Virginia primarily consists of partisan elections.

Candidates run in a partisan primary election, then compete against a candidate from the opposite party in the general election.

Supreme Court of Appeals

Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia are elected every 12 years.

When a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement. The justice then serves the remainder of the unexpired term. The Chief Justice is elected by the other justices and serves a one-year term.

In order to serve on the court, one must meet the following qualifications:

  • be a citizen of West Virginia for at least five years;
  • be at least 30 years of age; and
  • spent 10 years in the practice of law.[1]

Public financing for elections

In 2009, the West Virginia State Legislature established a Public Campaign Financing Pilot Program for elections to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. The program, which was first used in 2012, was created by Senate Bill 311. The goals of public financing of elections are to reduce the amount of outside dollars in a race, attract a larger number of qualified candidates to run and eliminate the appearance of impropriety.

In March 2011, the Senate Finance Committee killed a measure that would have almost doubled the amount of money dedicated to the program.[2] Though the amount available to candidates was smaller than expected, the program proceeded in 2012.[3]

In order to qualify, candidates must first raise $35,000 to 50,000 from more than 500 West Virginia voters. This provision is designed to gauge the seriousness of candidates, and root out any non-viable contenders. If a candidate raises that amount, she or he can receive up to $200,000 for a contested primary race and up to $350,000 for the general election. (These amounts could vary based on fundraising prior to receiving public funds and the amount left over after the early contest.)[4]

Circuit Courts

Judges of the West Virginia Circuit Courts also run in partisan elections, but serve eight-year terms. Judges are elected by voters residing in the circuit.

The Governor appoints judges to fill a vacancy, and the judge fills the remainder of the unexpired term.

In order to serve on the court, one must meet the following qualifications:

  • be a citizen of West Virginia for at least five years;
  • reside in the circuit;
  • be at least 30 years of age; and
  • have practiced law for five years.[1]

Family Courts

45 family court judges serve on 27 family court circuits. Prior to 2002, family court judges were appointed by the Governor. These judges must now run in partisan elections. They serve an initial term of six years. Any term they are elected to thereafter lasts for eight years.[5]

Magistrate Courts

There are 158 magistrate judges in the state, with at least two in each county. Magistrates run in partisan elections every four years.

If a vacancy occurs, circuit court judges appoint a replacement. The magistrate must run in the next election if she or he wishes to continue serving.

Magistrates do not have to be lawyers.[6]

Changes over time

The biggest change to the court system in West Virginia occurred when voters ratified the Judicial Reorganization Amendment in 1976. This amendment united all the state courts, with the exception of the municipal courts, into a single system.[7]

See also

External links

References

West VirginiaSupreme Court of Appeals of West VirginiaWest Virginia Circuit CourtsWest Virginia Family CourtsWest Virginia Magistrate CourtsWest Virginia Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fourth CircuitWest Virginia countiesWest Virginia judicial newsWest Virginia judicial electionsJudicial selection in West VirginiaWestVirginiaTemplate.jpg