BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Entirely remote courtrooms have now come to West Virginia.
The first one to arrive in the state, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Raleigh County Courthouse Tuesday to welcome in the new satellite courtroom.
It will be used for the Intermediate Court of Appeals which began its operation on July 1, 2022. The three ICA judges have a main courtroom in Charleston but now the satellite courtroom will give litigants the choice to attend appellate hearings virtually in Beckley.
“80% of the cases that we’re taking up are cases that used to go to circuit courts, so the thought is that we’re taking work off of the Supreme Court, that’s true to a certain extent, but 80% of our cases are cases that were previously heard by the circuit courts and appeals of family law, administrative law, those types of things,” says the Chief Justice for the Intermediate Court of Appeals, Dan Greear.
The new process will free up time for the circuit courts to focus on criminal cases.
Those who choose to attend the appellate court remotely will still meet with the bailiff, approach the podium when their case is called, and interact with the judge through the video that’s set up in the satellite courtroom.
The new intermediate judges will specifically handle worker’s compensation, family court matters, general civil cases, and administrative hearings.
The new process is expected to speed up those litigants’ right to a speedy trial.
“It’s going to help those folks because most of those, probably 60 to 70% of family law cases are self-represented litigants, they don’t have lawyers involved,” Chief Justice John Hutchinson says. “And these judges are going to be trained and I know they have already received training in terms of how to deal with self-represented litigants. It’s to help people feel and understand that they’ve gotten a fair hearing.”
Raleigh County is just one of the five locations throughout the state that’s getting a satellite courtroom. The others will be located in Grant, Lewis, Morgan, and Wetzel Counties.