WV Intermediate Court: How to Stop WV Lawmakers from Spending Taxpayer Money to Expand the Government
CHARLESTON, WV — If you had $10 million to spend in 2020 to help West Virginia, what would you do with it? Fix the roads, deal with the opioid crisis, or perhaps provide job training for workers? Or how about improving our schools and broadband access? There are many ways to improve our great state if we just had enough money.
But some lawmakers have other ideas. They want to spend the $10-15 million in 2020 and about another $5 million each year to expand the government and create an intermediate court of appeals we don’t need. An intermediate court means a whole new layer of government consisting of more judges, more administrators, more bureaucracy, and more government control.
And an intermediate court’s $7 million price tag would just be its estimated cost the first year. Just over the next ten years, an intermediate court would cost taxpayers at least another $40-100 million and probably more.
When West Virginia is facing budget cuts because of declining population and tax revenue, why then are some lawmakers pushing to expand our government with an intermediate court? To answer this question, we first need to look more closely at what is an intermediate court and more importantly who an intermediate court would benefit the most.
To help stop lawmakers from wasting taxpayer money with an intermediate court we don’t need, contact your state senators and delegates.
What is an Intermediate Court of Appeals?
An intermediate court would be a court of appeals that would sit, so to speak, between West Virginia’s circuit courts and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Currently, if a party disagrees with a judgment or jury verdict in circuit court, that party can appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
An intermediate court would add another layer of appeals to the system requiring a party to first appeal a circuit court judgment or verdict to an intermediate court. Then, if the party disagreed with an intermediate court’s ruling, they could appeal that ruling to the WV Supreme Court of Appeals.
The bottom line is the purpose and function of an intermediate court would be to delay the resolution of some civil claims 18-24 months!
So, again, that begs the question? Why would some lawmakers be pushing to spend millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money for an intermediate court when appeals have declined by nearly 70 percent in the past 20 years? The answer becomes clear when we look at who an intermediate court would benefit the most.
Who Would Benefit the Most from an Intermediate Court?
1. Out-of-state insurance companies
2. The defense lawyers who represent insurance companies
3. Special interest groups funded largely by big out-of-state corporations
4. The lobbyists who represent the out-of-state insurance companies and other special interests
5. The conservative lawmakers who receive money from the above groups in the form of election campaign support
An intermediate court would benefit the five groups above the most because it would delay, by 18 to 24 months, many civil claims such as those involving victims of drunk driving, nursing home abuse, and negligence. Since out-of-state insurance companies are ultimately responsible for paying most settlements and verdicts, they stand to benefit most.
Steve Canterbury, a former administrator of the WV Supreme Court of Appeals perhaps says it best, “they want certain types of appeals to take longer, namely those involving insurance and corporate cases…The longer it takes for a case to reach a final judgment or settlement, the better the chances are that the aggrieved or injured person will settle for a few cents on the dollar.”
“…It’s also good news for their [insurance defense] lawyers who bill by the hour. The longer a case is tied up in the court, the more billable hours result for those kinds of insurance defense attorneys.”
Who Would be Harmed the Most by an Intermediate Court?
1. You as a West Virginia taxpayer because an intermediate court would waste MILLIONS in Tax Dollars
- The population has decreased, and total appeals have declined by 70 percent in the last 20 years; so West Virginia needs less government, not more.
- West Virginia is already $50 million in the hole in tax revenues just six months into the fiscal year
- Lawmakers are saying there may need to be $100 million in budget cuts
2. You personally — because an intermediate court would limit your constitutional rights
You have a 7th Amendment Constitutional right to a jury trial, which helps protect your property rights, property, and livelihood. An intermediate court would interfere with your right to a jury trial because it would delay the finality of such a trial by up to 18-24 months. In other words, if you get injured by a drunk driver and a jury awards you damages, an intermediate court would allow the drunk driver (and their insurance company) to delay paying the verdict by 18-24 months.
That’s because an intermediate court would allow the drunk driver two appeals instead of the one already guaranteed to him or her. This delay would only serve to increase the corporate profits of the out-of-state insurance company, the lawyers who represent it, and the lawmakers whose campaigns are financially supported by the insurance companies. At the same time, this delay may cause you and your family grave hardship, especially if the drunk driving crash caused you permanent injury preventing you from working.
Why West Virginia Doesn’t Need an Intermediate Court
West Virginia has one of the lowest populations in the country and its decreasing, which also means declining tax revenue and budget cuts. Appeals have also decreased by 70% in the past 20 years. So, if we have fewer people, fewer appeals, and less money, why should we spend millions of dollars to add a whole new layer of government to our judicial system?
- Total appeals in West Virginia have decreased by 70% in the past 20 years (2018 WVSCA Statistical Report)
- There were only 155 civil case appeals in 2018, down from 402 in 2004
The Easy Way to Help Stop Lawmakers from Wasting Taxpayer Money on an Intermediate Court
The easiest way to let lawmakers know you don’t want to spend more taxpayer money on expanding the government and limiting your constitutional rights is to contact your state senators and delegates.
Brooks West is a West Virginia personal injury lawyer who helps people who have been injured by negligence or wrongful conduct. He is the President and founder of West Law Firm and has been an attorney since 2005. Brooks is a Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum member and has been awarded the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.