West Virginia needs Substantive Right of Appeal

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In 2008, the West Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear appeals in the Tawney and Wheeling Pitt cases, cases that garnered national headlines as two of the five largest jury verdicts in the United States that year. The Court's refusal to consider these appeals without any explanation shocked many, and it highlights the fact that, unlike virtually every other state, there is no automatic right to have a judgment in a civil or criminal case substantively reviewed by an appellate court in West Virginia.

The criticism that followed the Court's refusal to consider these appeals led Governor Manchin to appoint an "Independent Commission on Judicial Reform" to review West Virginia's court system. The Commission found, among other things, that West Virginia needs an intermediate court of appeals. The Commission recognized that our Supreme Court of Appeals is already one of the busiest in the Nation, and an intermediate appellate court would lighten its workload. It also would serve two other important purposes. It would ensure that litigants are afforded the opportunity to have their cases substantively reviewed on appeal, thereby bolstering public confidence in our judicial system, and the decisions of that court also would establish legal precedent that would, in turn, provide certainty regarding how our laws would be applied going forward.

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