CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia House of Delegates killed a perennial bill to create an intermediate court system on Friday after opponents argued the state’s declining caseloads and tight budget didn’t warrant a new layer of courts.
Lawmakers voted 56-44 to kill the bill, with both small-government Republicans and Democrats joining each other in opposition. Supporters said the intermediate court, which has been proposed numerous times in past sessions to handle appeals cases, was something big businesses asked for.
“Big business, they’re for this,” said Del. Scott Cadle, a Republican from Mason County. “The reason they’re for this, they can drag you to court and wear the little guy out.”
An early version of the bill would have limited the court to hearing appeals on civil cases but was later changed so it would handle criminal and other cases. The court’s cost remained in dispute after its scope was widened.
Del. Chad Lovejoy, a Democrat, noted that appeals in the state have dropped nearly 70% since 1999 and that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has issued opinions on every case before it since 2010.
“This new court is not necessary for West Virginia,” he said.
Some Republicans said that the intermediate court would strengthen the state’s appeals process and provide more precedents clarifying the state’s position on legal questions.
“The intermediate court system will give far more clarity and assurance to, particularly the business community, but also to criminals,” said Del. Terry Waxman, a Republican representing Harrison County. “That if a question is before the court concerning them, they know what the precedent is and it will be more consistent throughout the state.”
West Virginia Association for Justice, which represents plaintiffs’ attorneys, has consistently argued the court is unnecessary.
“Today, the West Virginia House stood up to the out-of-state special interests demanding that our legislature spend millions of our limited tax dollars on this proposed court,” the group said in a statement. “They put the needs of their constituents first, and now that money can be used for the critical programs and services this state and its residents need.”