CHAPTER 51. COURTS AND THEIR OFFICERS.
ARTICLE 1. SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS.
The supreme court of appeals shall consist of five justices,
elected and qualified according to the constitution and the laws of
this state, any three of whom shall constitute a quorum.
§51-1-2. Chief justice.
The court shall designate one of its justices to be chief
justice of the court for such term as the court may determine by
order made and entered of record. In the absence of the chief
justice, any other justice designated by the justices present shall
act as chief justice. Any reference in the constitution of this
state, in this code or elsewhere in law to the president of the
West Virginia supreme court of appeals shall henceforth be
construed to mean the chief justice of such court.
The supreme court of appeals shall have original jurisdiction
in cases of habeas corpus, mandamus and prohibition. It shall have
appellate jurisdiction in civil cases where the matter in
controversy, exclusive of costs, is of greater value or amount than
one hundred dollars; in controversies concerning the title or
boundaries of land, the probate of wills, the appointment or
qualification of a personal representative, guardian, committee or
curator, or concerning a mill, road, way, ferry or landing, or the
right of a corporation or county to levy tolls or taxes; in cases
of quo warranto, habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari and
prohibition, and in cases involving freedom or the
constitutionality of a law. It shall have appellate jurisdiction
in criminal cases where there has been a conviction for felony or
misdemeanor in a circuit court, and where a conviction has been had
in any inferior court and been affirmed in a circuit court, and in
cases relating to the public revenue, the right of appeal shall
belong to the state, as well as the defendant, and such other
appellate jurisdiction, in both civil and criminal cases, as may be
prescribed by law.
§51-1-4. Regulation of pleading, practice and procedure in all
courts of record; judicial council as advisory
The supreme court of appeals may, from time to time, make and
promulgate general rules and regulations governing pleading,
practice and procedure in such court and in all other courts of
record of this state. All statutes relating to pleading, practice
and procedure shall have force and effect only as rules of court
and shall remain in effect unless and until modified, suspended or
annulled by rules promulgated pursuant to the provisions of this
section. Such rules and regulations shall be uniform for all
courts of the same grade or class; but any court of the state other
than the supreme court of appeals may adopt rules of court
governing its local practice, but such rules of local practice
shall not be inconsistent with any general rule of court then in
existence or thereafter promulgated, and shall be effective only
after approval by the supreme court of appeals.
The judicial council of West Virginia is hereby designated as
advisory committee to make observation and report to the supreme
court of appeals, from time to time, such recommendations as may,
in its judgment, be proper; and all rules promulgated by the
supreme court of appeals under the authority of this section shall,
before taking effect, be referred to the chairman of the judicial
council, the president of the West Virginia bar association and to
the judge of every court affected thereby. In the event a hearing
is requested, within twenty days after such reference, by any five
of the persons so designated, the supreme court of appeals shall thereupon designate a day when a hearing on the matter of the
adoption of such rules shall be held. In the event no hearing is
requested or, if requested, after such hearing, the supreme court
of appeals shall be free to adopt or reject the proposed rules.
General rules and regulations governing pleading, practice and
procedure, and local rules, shall from time to time be published as
an appendix to the official reports of the supreme court of appeals
and bound therewith.
§51-1-4a. Rules governing practice of law; creation of West
Virginia State Bar; providing its powers, and fees
The supreme court of appeals of West Virginia shall, from time
to time, prescribe, adopt, promulgate, and amend rules:
(a) Defining the practice of law.
(b) Prescribing a code of ethics governing the professional
conduct of attorneys at law and the practice of law, and
prescribing a code of judicial ethics.
(c) Prescribing procedure for disciplining, suspending, and
disbarring attorneys at law.
(d) Organizing and governing by and through all of the
attorneys at law practicing in this state, an administrative agency
of the supreme court of appeals of West Virginia, which shall be
known as "The West Virginia State Bar." The West Virginia State
Bar shall be a part of the judicial department of the state
government and is hereby created for the purpose of enforcing such
rules as may be prescribed, adopted and promulgated by the court
from time to time under this section. It is hereby authorized and
empowered to perform the functions and purposes expressed in a
constitution, bylaws and amendments thereto as shall be approved by
the supreme court of appeals from time to time. All persons
practicing law in this state shall be members of the West Virginia
State Bar in good standing: Provided, however, That the West
Virginia State Bar shall not become operative until its
constitution and bylaws shall first have been submitted to all
attorneys at law practicing in this state, including those presently serving in the armed forces of the United States, for the
purpose of securing the suggestions and recommendations of all such
attorneys at law, for a period of at least sixty days prior to the
entry of an order by such court approving said constitution and
(e) Fixing a schedule of fees to be paid by attorneys at law
practicing in the state of West Virginia for the purpose of
administering this section, and providing for the collection and
disbursement of such fees: Provided, however, That the annual fees
to be paid by any attorney at law shall not exceed the sum of five
dollars, unless a majority of the attorneys at law practicing in
this state consent to the payment of a higher annual fee.
The inherent rule-making power of the supreme court of appeals
is hereby declared.
When and as the rules of the court herein authorized shall be
prescribed, adopted, and promulgated, all laws and parts of laws
that conflict therewith shall be and become of no further force or
effect to the extent of such conflict.
§51-1-5. Regular terms.
Two terms of the supreme court of appeals shall be held every
year at Charleston, in Kanawha county, the first commencing on the
second Tuesday in January, the second on the first Wednesday in
September, and shall continue until the business is dispatched.
But when, in the judgment of the court, extraordinary circumstances
require, such term or terms may be held at such other place or
places within the state as the court may designate, such times and
places to be fixed in the manner provided in this article for
holding special terms of said court.
§51-1-6. Special terms.
Special terms of the supreme court of appeals may be held for
the trial and decision of causes at Charleston, in Kanawha county,
specially designated as the place for holding the regular terms
thereof, and under extraordinary circumstances at such other times
and places as the court may designate by an order entered of record
at a regular or special term of said court.
§51-1-7. Warrant of judges appointing special term.
The judges of said court, or a majority of them, may, by
warrant signed by them, directed to the clerk, appoint a special
term to be held for the trial and decision of causes at Charleston,
or, under extraordinary circumstances, at any other point within
the state designated by them, or which may hereafter be designated
by law for holding regular terms thereof. The clerk shall enter
such warrant in the order book of the court.
§51-1-8. Hearing of cases at special term.
At any special term of the court, any cause, the record of
which has been previously printed, may, in the discretion of the
court, be heard and decided by consent of parties or their counsel,
entered of record, or upon at least thirty days' notice in writing,
given by the party desiring the hearing to the opposite party or
his counsel, of his intention to insist on a hearing, when the same
may, in the discretion of the court, be heard and determined at any
such special term.
§51-1-9. What cases may be decided at regular or special term.
The court may, at any regular or special term, decide any
cause or proceeding which may have been previously heard by the
court at any regular or special term thereof.
The court may, at any regular or special term, adjourn from
day to day or from time to time, as the court may order, until its
WVC 51 - 1 - 10 A
§51-1-10a. Salary of justices.
The salary of each of the Justices of the Supreme Court of
Appeals shall be ninety-five thousand dollars per year: Provided
That beginning the first day of July, two thousand five, the salary
of each of the Justices of the Supreme Court shall be one hundred
twenty-one thousand dollars per year.
WVC 51 - 1 - 11
§51-1-11. Appointment and compensation of the Clerk and employees
of the clerks' office; compensation.
The justices of the supreme court of appeals may appoint a
clerk. Notwithstanding any code provision to the contrary, no bond
shall be required to be posted by the clerk. The justices of the
supreme court of appeals may also appoint any other full-time and
part-time professional and clerical assistants necessary to
efficiently perform the functions and duties of the office of the
clerk. These employees shall serve at the will and pleasure of the
justices of the supreme court of appeals. The salary of the clerk
and persons employed within the office of the clerk shall be
established by the justices of the supreme court of appeals. If
any position becomes vacant while the supreme court of appeals is
in vacation, the position may be filled by appointment, in writing,
issued by the justices of the supreme court of appeals.
§51-1-12. Duties of clerk.
It shall be the duty of the clerk of the supreme court of
appeals to attend in person, or by deputy, all the sessions of the
court, to obey its orders and directions in term time and in
vacation, to take care of and preserve in an office, kept for the
purpose, all records and papers of the court, and to perform such
other duties as may be prescribed by law or required of him by the
Acts, 1975 Reg. Sess., Ch. 126.
Acts, 1975 Reg. Sess., Ch. 126.
§51-1-15. Administrative office of supreme court of appeals
continued; director; assistants and secretaries;
The administrative office of the supreme court of appeals
heretofore established is hereby continued. The court shall
appoint a director thereof and such assistants and secretaries as
it deems necessary to perform the duties of the office as specified
in section seventeen of this article and such other duties as may
be specified by the court. Such appointees shall serve at the will
and pleasure of the court and shall receive such compensation as
may be fixed from time to time by the court. They shall also be
reimbursed out of the state treasury for all reasonable and
necessary expenses actually incurred for travel, meals and lodging
incident to the performance of their duties as such appointees.
The director, when so directed by the court, shall cause a seal of
office to be made for such office of such design as the court shall
approve, and judicial notice shall be taken of such seal.
§51-1-16. Director and assistant directors not to practice law.
During his employment in the administrative office, no
director or assistant director shall engage directly or indirectly
in the practice of law in any of the courts of this state.
WVC 51 - 1 - 17
§51-1-17. Administrative office of supreme court of appeals --
duties of director.
The director shall, when authorized by the supreme court of
appeals, be the administrative officer of said court and shall have
charge, under the supervision and direction of the supreme court of
(a) All administrative matters relating to the offices of the
clerks of the circuit and intermediary courts and of the offices of
justice of the peace and all other clerical and administrative
personnel of said courts; but nothing contained in this article
shall be construed as affecting the authority of the courts to
appoint their administrative or clerical personnel;
(b) Examining the state of the dockets of the various courts
and securing information as to their needs for assistance, if any,
and the preparation of statistical data and reports of the business
transacted by the courts;
(c) The preparation of a proper budget to secure the
appropriation of moneys for the maintenance, support and operation
of the courts;
(d) The purchase, exchange, transfer and distribution of
equipment and supplies, as may be needful or desirable;
(e) Such other matters as may be assigned to him by the
supreme court of appeals. The clerks of the circuit courts, intermediate courts and courts of the justices of the peace shall
comply with any and all requests made by the director or his
assistants for information and statistical data bearing on the
state of the dockets of such courts, or such other information as
may reflect the business transacted by them;
(f) Annual report of activities and estimates of expenditures.
-- The director, when required to do so by the supreme court of
appeals, shall submit annually to the court a report of the
activities of the administrative office and of the state of
business of the courts, together with the statistical data compiled
by him, with his recommendations;
(g) Serve as the chair of the court security board created
under the provisions of section fifteen, article three of this
§51-1-18. Same -- Annual report of activities and estimates of
The director shall submit annually to the supreme court of
appeals a report of the activities of the administrative office and
of the state of business of the courts, together with the
statistical data compiled by him, with his recommendations.
Acts, 1993 Reg. Sess., Ch. 56.
§51-1-20. Feasibility study of one day-one trial jury selection
The supreme court of appeals shall conduct a study to
determine the feasibility of a system of jury selection for petit
juries in West Virginia wherein those prospective jurors who are
called for jury duty are required to report for duty for not more
than one day or until the completion of one trial for which they
are chosen on that day. The supreme court shall designate a
judicial circuit within this state and direct the court of that
circuit to order the jury commission of each county within the
circuit to employ this a jury selection system in whole, or in
part, from the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred
eighty-eight, to the thirtieth day of June, one thousand nine
Before the first day of September, one thousand nine hundred
eighty-nine, the jury commission shall prepare and deliver a report
to the supreme court of appeals relating the cost, efficiency,
effectiveness and general acceptance of the system. The supreme
court of appeals shall report to the Legislature on the feasibility
of the system before the first day of January, one thousand nine
hundred ninety. The supreme court of appeals shall fund those
expenses necessary to conduct this study out of the budget of the
WVC 51 - 1 - 21
§51-1-21. Authority to maintain domestic violence database.
(a) The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is hereby
authorized to maintain a domestic violence database containing
copies of protective orders entered by the courts of this state and
granted pursuant to the provisions of article twenty-seven, chapter
forty-eight of this code. Further, the domestic violence database
shall also include, upon request, protection orders issued by a
jurisdiction outside of this state pursuant to its law.
(b) Only a protected individual who obtains a protection order
from a jurisdiction other than this state pursuant to its law or
his or her representative as provided in section five, article
twenty-eight of this chapter may register that order with the West
Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
(c) Failure to register an order as provided in this section
shall not affect its enforceability in any county or jurisdiction.
WVC 51 - 1 - 10 A
§51-1-10a. Salary of justices.
The salary of each of the justices of the Supreme Court of
Appeals shall be $95,000 per year: Provided,
That beginning July,
1, 2005, the salary of each of the justices of the Supreme Court
shall be $121,000: Provided, however,
That beginning July 1, 2011,
the annual salary of a justice of the Supreme Court shall be
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2012 1st Special Session