CHAPTER 51. COURTS AND THEIR OFFICERS.
WVC 51 - 3 -
ARTICLE 3. COURTS IN GENERAL.
§51-3-1. Seals of courts.
For every court without one, the governor shall provide a seal
to be deposited with the clerk of such court.
§51-3-2. Use of private seal.
Until provided with an official seal, every clerk of such
court may use his private seal or scroll by way of seal, in cases
where the use of the seal is required by law or usage; and whenever
so used, his attestation of the instrument, record or copy to which
it is annexed shall set forth the fact that he is not provided with
an official seal, and shall have the same force and effect as if an
official seal was annexed.
§51-3-3. Jurisdiction over watercourses.
When any river or watercourse lies between any counties in
this state, the circuit and county courts and justices for the
counties on each side, respectively, shall have concurrent
jurisdiction over so much thereof as is opposite said counties.
And the circuit and county courts and justices for counties lying
on the waters bounding the state shall have jurisdiction
respectively over such waters opposite said counties, so far as the
jurisdiction of this state extends.
The proceedings of every court shall be entered in a book and
in the discretion of the court may be caused to be read, and after
being corrected, where it is necessary, shall be signed by the
judge or presiding officer on the following day, except those of
the last day of the term and of the day on which the court may
adjourn to a future day as prescribed in article two of this
chapter, which shall be drawn up and corrected, where it is
necessary, and signed by the judge or officer on the same day:
That where microfilm, photocopies or some other similar
reproduction process is used to copy the original orders of such
proceedings for entry in the book, and such original orders have
been signed by the judge or presiding officer, it shall not be
necessary for the judge or presiding officer to personally sign
such copies entered in the book.
§51-3-5. Attending officer.
The supreme court of appeals shall not be attended by any
sheriff, but every circuit court, county court, and other court of
record of any county shall be attended by the sheriff of the county
in which it is held, who shall act as the officer thereof.
§51-3-6. Citizenship and taxpaying not ground for disqualification
of judge, sheriff or other court officer.
No judge of any court, and no sheriff or other officer of a
court, shall be disqualified from performing his official duties
with respect to any cause by reason of the fact that he is a
citizen and taxpayer of a county, district, school district or
municipal corporation which is interested in, or a party to, such
§51-3-7. Place of sessions of courts of county; destruction of
Every circuit court, county court and other court of record of
any county shall be held at the courthouse of such county, except
where some other place is prescribed by law or lawfully appointed.
When the courthouse of a county is destroyed or is not in a
condition to be occupied, such court shall hold its sessions at
such places as may be appointed by order of the county court. A
copy of such order or warrant shall be posted by the clerk of the
county court at the front door of his office, at the courthouse
door, unless the courthouse has been destroyed, and at the place so
§51-3-8. Change of place or time of session by governor.
Whenever, by reason of the destruction of the building in
which the supreme court of appeals was held, or by reason of any
building in which any courts are appointed to be held being in the
possession of, or threatened by, a public enemy, or infected with
a contagious disease, it shall seem to the governor necessary, he
shall, by proclamation, appoint a place at which such courts shall
be held, so long as such reason may continue, and, when the
circumstances require it, may postpone the time for holding the
courts. A copy of such proclamation shall be sent to the clerk and
to each of the judges of any such court, and to the president of
any such county court.
§51-3-9. Limitation of §§51-3-7 and 51-3-8.
No such place of session for a circuit court, county court, or
other court of record of any county, shall be without the limits of
the county in which it is to be held; and when such place is
appointed because of the destruction of the building in which the
supreme court of appeals was held, the new place of session shall
be within the same town as the old.
§51-3-10. Opening after day fixed.
Though court be not held on the first day of a term, it may
nevertheless be opened on any subsequent day; provided, in the case
of any court of record for any county, the same be done before four
o'clock in the afternoon of the third day. If, after a court is
opened, it fails to sit on any day, it may nevertheless sit on any
subsequent day of the term: Provided,
That in the case of any
court of record for any county, there be not more than thirty
consecutive days of such failure.
§51-3-11. Effect of changing time or place of session.
When the place for holding any court, or the day for
commencing any term, is changed, or when a court fails to sit on
any day appointed for it, or to which it may have adjourned, or
when, for any reason, no court shall be held on any day within a
term thereof, there shall be no discontinuance, but every notice,
recognizance or process, given, taken or returnable to any such day
or to any day between that day and the next that the court may sit,
or to the day and place as it was before such change, and all
matters ready for the court to act upon if it had been held on any
such day, shall be in the same condition and have the same effect
as if given, taken or returnable, or continued, to the substituted
term or place, or to the next day of the same term that the court
may sit, or to the next court in course, as the case may be.
Any court of record may, at any term, whether regular,
adjourned or special, adjourn from day to day until the business
before it is dispatched, or until the end of its term.
§51-3-13. Power of judges of circuit courts to act during
vacation of court.
The limitations upon the powers of circuit court judges to act
in or during the vacation of the court as heretofore existed,
either at common law or as may exist elsewhere in this code, to the
contrary notwithstanding, a judge of a circuit court may do any act
or take any proceeding in any action or proceeding, whether civil,
criminal or otherwise, which is instituted or pending before the
court during the vacation of such court to the same extent as such
judge could act during the term of such court.
WVC 51 - 3 - 14
§51-3-14. Court security fund.
(a) The offices and the clerks of the magistrate courts and
the circuit courts shall, on or before the tenth day of each month,
transmit all fees and costs received for the Court Security Fund in
accordance with the provisions of sections one and two, article
three, chapter fifty of this code and section eleven, article one,
chapter fifty-nine of this code for deposit in the State Treasury
to the credit of a special revenue fund to be known as the Court
Security Fund, which is hereby created under the Department of
Military Affairs and Public Safety. The Court Security Fund may
receive any gifts, grants, contributions or other money from any
source which is specifically designated for deposit in the fund.
All moneys collected and received and paid into the State Treasury
and credited to the Court Security Fund shall be expended by the
board exclusively to implement the improvement measures agreed upon
in accordance with the security plans submitted pursuant to section
sixteen of this article and in accordance with an appropriation by
the Legislature and to pay expenses of the Department of Military
Affairs and Public Safety in administering this fund, which
expenses may not in any fiscal year exceed the lesser of three
percent of the funds deposited into the court security fund or
thirty thousand dollars. Amounts collected which are found from
time to time to exceed the funds needed for the purposes set forth
in this article may be transferred to other accounts or funds and
redesignated for other purposes upon appropriation by the Legislature.
(b) Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the
contrary, after the thirtieth day of June, two thousand, the court
security board shall transfer such amounts from the Court Security
Fund as may, from time to time, be directed by the Legislature in
an appropriation act to the Domestic Violence Legal Services Fund
created in section four-c, article two-c, chapter forty-eight of
this code. Any moneys transferred to the Domestic Violence Legal
Services Fund pursuant to the provisions of this section shall be
expended for the purposes specified in said section.
§51-3-15. Court security board, terms.
(a) There is hereby created a court security board who shall
make decisions on how the money in the court security fund is to be
spent to enhance the security of courts. The board shall consist
of seven members and the administrative director of the supreme
court of appeals who shall serve ex officio and be the chair. The
board shall be appointed as follows: One circuit court judge
appointed by the judicial association; one magistrate appointed by
the magistrate's association; one family law master appointed by
the family law master's association; one member of the bar
appointed by the president of the West Virginia state bar; one
representative of counties appointed by the West Virginia
association of counties; one representative of sheriffs appointed
by the West Virginia sheriffs association; and one representative
of the state police appointed by the secretary of the department of
military affairs and public safety.
(b) The members of the board shall each serve terms that
commence on the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred
ninety-six. Of the initial appointments to the board, two shall
serve for two-year terms, two shall serve for three-year terms and
two shall serve for four-year terms. Thereafter, each appointment
shall be for a four-year term commencing upon the expiration of his
or her previous term or of his or her predecessor's term. No
member may be appointed for more than three consecutive terms.
Vacancies shall be appointed in a like manner for the balance of an
(c) The board shall compile and keep a list of able and available law-enforcement officers who have obtained certification
in compliance with the provisions of section five, article
twenty-nine, chapter thirty of this code and who have maintained
all necessary qualifications and firearms certifications to enable
them to serve as bailiffs in court facilities. The board shall
make the list available to all county sheriffs for their use in
recruiting and hiring temporary, part-time or occasional bailiffs
to exercise all the powers and duties of bailiffs in the court
facilities in their counties.
§51-3-16. Security plans; approval by court security board;
(a) The sheriff of each county in conjunction with the circuit
judges, magistrates and family law master may develop a security
plan to enhance the security of all the court facilities in use in
the county and submit said plan to the court security board.
(b) Each security plan shall include, but not be limited to:
(1) An assessment of the existing security measures in place
and any problems or shortcomings with the existing procedures;
(2) A description of how the county responds to court security
emergencies and whether the response is adequate;
(3) A prioritized listing of equipment or personnel, or both,
needed to improve the security of the court facilities in the
county, including cost estimates for such equipment and personnel;
(4) A description of the physical locations of court
facilities around the county and a discussion of whether changes or
consolidation of space could improve court security in the county;
(5) An assessment of the training needs for bailiffs currently
employed in the county or for additional bailiffs and the options
for securing the necessary training.
(c) Each plan prepared under this section is subject to
approval by the court security board. Any plan rejected by the
court security board shall be returned to the county with a
statement of the insufficiencies in such plan. The county shall
revise the plan to eliminate the insufficiencies and resubmit it to
the court security board.
(d) Upon receipt of the plans the court security board shall
meet at least twice a year to review the plans and to award money
from the court security fund to the circuit clerk, county
commission or county sheriff to be used solely and exclusively to
purchase equipment, hire personnel or make other identified
expenditures in accordance with the plan. The board shall develop
an application form and establish criteria to assist them in making
the decisions on which applications will receive money and how much
money will be awarded. Once an award has been made, the recipient
will have a fixed amount of time in which to execute the
expenditures described in their plan. The board will set forth in
writing the amount of the award, the time frame for accomplishing
the plan objectives and the requirement that any unexpended money
be returned to the board for deposit in the court security fund.
The award or decision not to award these funds shall not relieve
any person or office of their duty or obligation to provide
security services to courts in this state.
(e) The board is authorized to award money from the court
security fund to be used by the counties for costs and expenses of
training for bailiffs. The board may establish minimum standards
for training and it may designate specific agencies or institutions
approved for administering such training.
§51-3-17. Promulgation of legislative rules.
The board shall promulgate legislative rules pursuant to the
provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code effectuating the
purposes and intent of sections fourteen, fifteen and sixteen of
this article. Such rules shall include, but shall not be limited
to, operating procedures for the board and accounting for
expenditures by the board.
WVC 51 - 3 - 18
§51-3-18. Expeditious filling of judicial vacancies.
(a) The Legislature finds that when judicial offices created
under the constitution and laws of the state are vacant for
extended periods of time, the proper functioning of the judicial
branch of the government is impeded. The Legislature further finds
that when a vacancy in a judicial office is to be filled by
appointment, it is in the public interest that any questions
regarding the qualifications or eligibility of the person nominated
or appointed to fill the vacancy be determined expeditiously.
(b) When, pursuant to the provisions of section seven, article
VIII of the Constitution of West Virginia, the Governor appoints a
person to fill a vacancy in the office of Justice of the Supreme
Court of Appeals or in the office of judge of the circuit court, no
suit or action challenging the qualifications or eligibility of the
person so appointed, if it be based upon any fact or circumstance
in existence at the time of the appointment, will be cognizable in
any court of this state unless it be brought within twenty days
after the appointment by the Governor.
(c) When, pursuant to the provisions of section ten, article
VIII of the Constitution of West Virginia and the general laws
adopted thereunder, a person is appointed to fill a vacancy in the
office of magistrate, no suit or action challenging the
qualifications or eligibility of the person so appointed, if it be
based upon any fact or circumstance in existence at the time of the
appointment, will be cognizable in any court of this state unless it be brought within twenty days after the appointment.
(d) When, pursuant to the provisions of section sixteen,
article VIII of the Constitution of West Virginia, the Governor
appoints a person to fill a vacancy in the office of judge of the
family court, no suit or action challenging the qualifications or
eligibility of the person so appointed, if it be based upon any
fact or circumstance in existence at the time of the appointment,
will be cognizable in any court of this state unless it be brought
within twenty days after the appointment by the Governor.
(e) Following a judicial appointment, if no suit or action is
commenced within the time specified above, or if, in a suit having
been timely brought, it is finally adjudged that the appointee is
qualified and eligible to hold the office to which he or she has
been appointed, then the appointee may take the oath of office and
thereafter execute the office for the unexpired term to which he or
she has been appointed, subject to removal under section eight,
article VIII of the Constitution of West Virginia, in the case of
a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the circuit court or the
family court, only by impeachment, and in the case of a magistrate,
in the manner provided by general law for removal of a magistrate.
(f) An action timely brought to challenge the qualifications
or eligibility of an appointee to judicial office shall be given
priority over all other actions on the docket of the court in which
the action is brought.
(g) Nothing contained in this section is intended by the Legislature to interfere with the authority of the Supreme Court of
Appeals to discipline or retire judges or magistrates as that
authority is set forth in the Constitution of West Virginia and in
rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Appeals pursuant to the
Constitution of West Virginia.
(h) The Legislature declares that the offices of magistrate,
judge of the family court, judge of the circuit court and Justice
of the Supreme Court of Appeals are elective in nature and are all
"offices to be filled by election by the people" within the meaning
of the exceptions clause of section fifteen, article VI of the
Constitution of West Virginia, which clause describes the kind and
character of the offices thereby removed from the operation of the
prohibitory clause and not the method by which the offices are to